Razzle dazzle 'em at the Lido

Ornella D'Souza catches Le Lido's 'Paris Merveilles' act in Paris and comes away with sequins in her eyes

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Razzle dazzle 'em at the Lido
The Lustre (chandelier) act, Lido’s glossy gold interiors and the Bluebell line of girls. Fuchsia Brzustowski, a danuese from the Bell linePhotographs courtesy: Le Lido

If you, like me, love the saucy slink in Chicago (2002), Moulin Rouge (2001), Showgirls (1995), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) or Striptease (1996), then catching a live act in Paris, the birthplace of cabaret, is a dream come true. In fact, at many tourist counters of Paris' museums, a black cat peers at you with its amber eyes from an 1896 poster of the world's first cabaret show, the French Le Chat Noir. As if, silently doffing a hat to decadent, homegrown cabaret-houses of Moulin Rouge, Lapis Agile, Paradis Latin, Folies Bergère, Crazy Horse etc., which mash semi-burlesque routines with awe-inducing technology and dinner takes the revue beyond the mere allure of breasts, buttocks and bubbly.

However, for a less rauchy version of this nocturnal delight, opt for Lido de Paris's Paris Merveilles – a highly contemporarised art nouveau act at Champs Élysées – a paradise for shopholics and patrons of voguish cafes.

The Parisian cabaret, legendary for its leggy 5'11+ Bluebell, Bell and soloists dance girls, began as a nightclub with an artificial beach in 1920s Normandie, assumed its cabaret avatar in 1946, toured Las Vegas, before staying put at its current address in-between Champs Elysee voguish cafes and highend fashion stores in 1977. Like old wine in a new bottle, it finally re-jigged its act in a 24 million euro renovation. It now promises 60 dancers, 2 million crystals, 200 kgs of ostrich feathers, a chandelier with 40,000 pendants... stitched together by industry bests – artistic director Franco Dragone with a Cirque de Soleil past, costume designer Nicholas Vaudelet liaisons with Paris fashion houses Dior, Louis Vuitton, Jean-Paul Gautier, and ballet mistress and an ex Bluebell girl herself, Jane Sansby.

But did it live up to all this hype? Damn well it did.

Right from the entrance to my seat, the interiors blaze of gold interiors in honeycomb patterns and lamps in crystal baubles. I signup for the 9pm show, that 7.30pm on doles out dinner at. I wash a buttery smooth foie gras, an okayish duck roast and a splendid coffee-flavoured dessert with premium bubbly while two musicians backed up by an automated orchestra where 45 instruments playing themselves as if by magic!

Ten minutes before 9, the shimmery blue curtain falls. And when the glittery table lamps sink to the ground, the show begins. Paris Merveilles is the story of a prudish librarian who is kidnapped by the Lido crew and seduced into the big, bad world of cabaret through a string of coquettish acts. With each act progressively debaucherous and finer in dancing, she ultimately discards her nerdy glasses to become a sexy Lido girl herself. This backed by the fabulously husky vocals of the petite red-hair and tattooed Manon, a The Voice 3 contestant.

Though positioned as a cabaret and burlesque show, there's none of the shimmy-till-my-garters-break-or-nipple-tassles-fall-off. The Bell, Bluebell and soloists girls perch precariously from a gigantic chandelier, emerge from a foamy fountain, do the can-can, turn into floral bouquets, don gowns with fairylights and even provide a lesson in French historical monuments of the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe in nothing but Napolean jackets and underwear. Most acts are topless but even semi-nudity becomes a beautiful costume. A minor hiccup: the equally dapper male lineup at times lacks in synchrony.

At many instances I found my hands frozen in the act of cutting my meat or holding up my fork or champagne glass mid-air. Especially when a girl balances a boy in tight boxers on her wrist like a pet pigeon, a couple frolicks on an ice rink and clown pantomimes losing his heart. Had I chosen to sit touching the stage, I would have a chance to scrutinise the costumes upclose. But a seat at the back let me lap up the stage and choreography in its entirety.

After an hour and a half of razzmatazz, I left with sequins in my eyes.

From the babe's mouth

Before the show I caught up with Fuchsia Brzustowski from the Bell line. At 5.9 ½", the 27-year-old is a ballerina too tall for ballet – a criteria coined by the late Margaret Kelly aka Miss Bluebell who formed the original Bluebell line. Before Lido, Brzustowski danced the world over, and was even a backup dancer for a few Bollywood movies. After studying YouTube videos of old acts and garnering tips from former Lido dancers, she cracked Lido's four-hour long audition and earn a place in the lineup that opened Lido's brand new show in 2015. The leggy blonde has a baccalaureate in French and a diploma in Business, and fosters strays in her free time. Ask her if dancing topless comes with inhibitions, she states nonchantly, "Once onstage, I become someone else. Offstage, I'm more inhibited and don't even apply makeup to get on the metro."

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