Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Moulin Rouge Wins

When we went to Lido a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know much about it other than there were ads for Lido in the metro stations and I had heard that Lido competes with Moulin Rouge in terms of the cabaret crowd in Paris. I went to Lido, was duly impressed but somewhat under whelmed, and thought myself fortunate to have seen one of the two biggest Parisian cabarets. Needless to say, when I saw the opportunity to see Moulin Rouge, I leapt for it. What better chance to compare the two leading cabarets in the city of love, competing neck-and-neck. My conclusion: Moulin Rouge wins.

From the moment we stepped through the doors, I knew that this experience was going to be very different. First of all, the venue was packed. Every seat was taken and the room rumbled with excited conversation in at least 8 languages (I counted English, French, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Norwegian, German and Flemish). When the show started, it just all seemed fresher somehow. The dancers were younger, the colors brighter. The dancers looked as though they were really and truly happy to be on stage performing, as opposed to simply running through the motions even though they were tired and had to cook dinner when they got home. The structure of the show was similar to that of Lido in that there were the main typical “cabaret” acts with feathers, breasts, rhinestones and dancing interspersed with specialty performances. In terms of the specifically cabaret performances, I was incredibly more impressed with the Moulin Rouge dancers. The choreography was more interesting, more up-to-date, and showed off their ability and athleticism much more than the choreography at Lido. When I was watching Lido, I wanted to believe I was watching incredibly talented trained dancers but it just didn’t show. At Moulin Rouge, they used some of the same campy, jazz-hands, I’m-wearing-far-too-many-sequins movements, but they also jumped and spun and did splits and flips. All of it just seemed to have more energy, more pizzazz.

In terms of the specialty acts, I think that they were actually about on par with those at Lido (I was much more impressed with the specialty acts at Lido than I was with the cabaret). However, my favorite act was without question the ventriloquist. He spoke at least English, French, Spanish and Japanese, maybe more. He not only used puppets, but also members of the audience and a dog. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe and tears were running down my face. There was also a woman who swam naked in a glass tub of water with big snakes, which I suppose would’ve been a lot more impressive if I had a snake phobia, but as it was I was just thinking, “hmm I could do that.” The juggler at Moulin Rouge was excellent but didn’t do anything particularly original and certainly didn’t have the charisma of the Chinese yo-yo juggler at Lido. The final specialty act was a couple that put on a comedic performance involving lifts and tricks and left me feeling like Gumby had been reborn in the form of this tiny red-haired woman because she could fold her body up in ways I had previously thought to be impossible. The man was also phenomenally strong, at one point lifting and balancing the woman on one arm.

To be fair to Lido, there were hardly any people there. Having performed myself, I know that the mood and quantity of the audience in attendance is absolutely critical. But I also know that the performers at Lido (and at Moulin Rouge) are professional, and so should be able to push through whatever mood-setting setbacks there might be. I think if I were to sum up the difference between my experience at Lido and my experience at Moulin Rouge, I would have to say that it was the attitude of the dancers. They just looked happier to be on stage, happy to be performing for us. And that truly does make all the difference.

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