Move over, Manhattan. Broadway isn’t the only spot for great theatre. Those traveling abroad are probably already aware of Europe’s reputation for the performing arts and the abundance of stunning edifices that house them. Paris is no exception.
On a recent trip, Manhattan Digest visited the long-running Lido on the famous ChampsÉlysée. The world-famous cabaret/burlesque, which started in 1946, is home to their current show, Paris Merveilles (Paris Wonders). Director Franco Dragone has assembled 32 women (including the famous Bluebell Girls) and 14 men to create a physically and visually stunning tapestry across an enormous, panoramic stage. Benoit-Swan Poufer provides choreography which mixes old school song and dance nostalgia with more modern, titillating moves. Patrick Neys adds remarkable imagery that features the most well-known spots in the capital city, while Nicolas Vaudelet brings over 600 eye-popping costumes to the stage.
For a show that’s been running since 2015, Paris Merveilles seems surprisingly fresh. It’s obvious that the cast has great chemistry, both onstage and off. Although there are sword swallowers, aerialists, and dancers draped around a larger than life chandelier, the real highlight is Manon, a mezzo-soprano with a warm, affecting voice.
It’s doubtful than many native Parisians attend Lido, but as a tourist destination, it’s 90 minutes of frivolous fun. Best of all, you need not be fluent in French to have a great time.
Those seeking slightly more high brow entertainment would be wise to skip across town to the newly renovated Théâtre du Châtelet. In 2017, it was announced that British native Ruth Mackenzie would become the artistic director and this past September, she took the helm. Mackenzie is the first female director since the theater opened in 1862. It was built by Napoleon III’s chief architect Baron Haussmann as part of the Paris’ great transformation.
In recent years, it was deemed a fire and safety risk and closed. But like humanity itself, it has bounced back with solid resilience. The 31.5 million (28.6 euro) renovation is a true treasure among the many that Paris has to offer.
Manhattan Digest caught a performance of Les Justes (The Just Assassins), which has been updated and musicalized by French rapper Abd Al Malik. It tells the story of a group of Russian revolutionaries who attempt to assassinate the czar–and in true existential Camus form–questions the moral implications of such a deed. The multi-cultural cast is breaking down barriers for French theatre in general, which is often accused of being elitist and non-inclusive.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mackenzie hoped that the newly renovated space would be “the people’s theatre.” Judging from the performance we saw, it is a wish fulfilled. People of all ages, races, colors, and backgrounds were seated in the plush, crimson red seats. Never in my theater-going history have I witnessed such a polite, rapt audience. Several curtain calls were a testament to the power of the play and the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Next, the Châtelet will open Gershwin’s popular An American In Paris. Mackenzie has also introduced a program where patrons can sponsor tickets for those who might not otherwise be financially able to attend and is offering low priced seats to folks under 25. Bravo!
If you go, don’t miss the rooftop terrace, complete with breathtaking views of the city and elegant sculptures. It’s open before the show and during the intermission.
For more information on Lido, click here.
For more information on Théâtre du Châtelet, click here.