French cabaret, the Parisian art form first imagined and then honed within lush and famed venues like the Moulin Rouge and The Lido, has since seeped into every crevice of our popular culture.
Its influences can be seen in the extravagant feathery fashion stylings of Lady Gaga, the physical comedy of Will Ferrell and the melodramatic illusions of David Blaine. While subsequent incarnations of the craft bring new flavour, nobody 'can-can' quite do it like the original and the best.
When the red curtain of Her Majesty’s Theatre first lifted, a sedate matinee crowd politely applauded; when the curtain dropped after two hours of high kicks and hysterics, there was hooting and cheering. The secret behind this miraculous transformation is perhaps found by examining the origins of French cabaret. The Moulin Rouge has entertained discerning and raucous audiences night in and night out for 120 years. In such an environment, it is the survival of the fittest; jokes that bomb are cut, illusions that don’t mystify are discarded, girls that don’t titillate and enchant don’t last. The star of 'Cabaret de Paris', Marissa Burgess, thrived in this shark tank for longer than any other showgirl. Burgess, armed with such a pedigree, is well placed to curate an authentic Parisian experience.
While 'Cabaret de Paris' did include some modern twists, like Art vs Science’s ‘Parlez vous Francais?’ and ‘Lady Marmalade’ from Moulin Rouge, the emphasis was predominately on the golden ages: Burgess sang Piaf and Cole Porter while the showgirls danced to the can-can, of course, and disco infused music from the '70s and '80s. The mime, acrobat and comic Duban Nikol did not rely on stand-up comic one-liners for laughs; his jokes and skits had layers upon layers; the initial titter would eventually build into a tear-inducing gigglegasm. His prowess upon the trampoline was entirely unanticipated, given his stout frame; his outfit, though, comprised of layers and layers too.
The showgirls, meanwhile, were an ostentation of peacocks, seducing with their smiles and their plumage. While some modern burlesque shows press the flesh too much, to the detriment of variety, 'Cabaret de Paris' gets the mix just right.
The pole dancing and illusion segments, while traditional, were perhaps slightly less impressive given the spectacular technical advancements in this realm in recent years. Ultimately, though, 'Cabaret de Paris' was an exotic and sigh-inducing escape that kindled a longing for Paris in the spring time.