Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Moulin Rouge

Spectacular, spectacular
No words in the vernacular
Can describe this great event
You'll be dumb with wonderment

So exciting, the audience will stomp and cheer!
So delighting, it will run for 50 years!
So exciting, the audience will stomp and cheer!
So delighting, it will run for 50 years!

-The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular), Moulin Rouge!


I would consider that to be a pretty appropriate word to describe the Parisian institution that is the Moulin Rouge.  An overwhelming spectacle of dancers, seduction, costumes, music, lights, colors, performers, backdrops...it even included a snake tank. There was no doubt that it was two solid hours of pure entertainment, though maybe not exactly for the reasons that the producers had intended.

From the get-go, the stage was flooded with dozens half-naked dancers in elaborate costumes, lip-synching to the cheesy lyrics which proclaimed the Moulin Rouge to be the "Moulin of eternal love".  Their dance was suggesting something quite different altogether. Between the flashy costumes and the "seductive" dances of the performers, it wasn't hard to assume that the "love" they were advertising wasn't quite true love.  Nonetheless, judging by the reaction of the men seated around our table, I would say that tiny fact was essentially irrelevant.

After some 60-odd song and dance numbers, punctuated by several other acts such as the juggler, the contortionists and the ventriloquist.  Between the pumped-music, the flashing lights, the glittering costumes and the risqué dances; the audience were barely given a second to contemplate the non-stop performances.  This was intentional on the part of the producers, I would assume, since were the audience given a moment to think, it would become all too apparent that the show in fact had no plot, no coherence and no substance.  Instead, it seemed like a nonsensical mix of dances, designed solely to display as much of the dancers' bodies as possible.

Despite all these flashy and overwhelming numbers, the most popular, and arguably the most enjoyable, was still the traditional French can-can.  Dressed in their relatively most conservative costumes with the customary frilly skirts, this act triggered the loudest applause, the greatest audience participation.  The hall was flooded with the booming uniform clapping in time with the rhythm of the famous tune, and the cheers were deafening.  Despite being the most classic dance which everyone had already seen a million times, despite the dancers being more covered up than during any of the other dances, the can-can was assuredly the star of the show.

Evidently, I did not consider any part of the performance to actually be seductive or even remotely sexy.  The overwhelming mélange of legs, feathers, nudity, rhinestones...it was too fake for me, too artificial. There was nothing glamorous about the almost-orange fake-tanned and airbrushed legs, the painted-on stage make-up and the incessant plastic smiles. Put together with the cheesy love songs and the almost sleazy costumes of the male dancers, the ensuing result is an unintentionally humorous, decidedly unsexy spectacle.

Yet I wouldn't write-off the Moulin Rouge completely.  Though it failed to seduce me into its world of "eternal love", there is no doubt that the show was enthralling to watch.  The details were exhaustively astounding, the dances were breathtakingly acrobatic, and the costumes were wildly extravagant.  I wouldn't even consider comparing the dancing to the ballet we had seen at the Opera Garnier, not would I categorize it with the significantly more seductive striptease of the burlesque.  But nonetheless, the Moulin Rouge was a thoroughly entertaining experience, a true spectacle.

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