I hop off the metro at Grands Boulevards and start out on my walk to the Folies Bergère, desperately trying to recall the route I thought I’d memorised. Winding through the streets of the 9th arrondissement (trying to avoid the lure of every crêperie I pass) I start to panic: with ten minutes to go, and no sense of direction, this isn’t looking promising.
Until, at the end of the narrow rue Geoffroy-Marie I spot it. A glowing, gold and red beacon: the Folies Bergère: “le plus célèbre music hall du monde” *.
For a country that’s in no way famed for its musical theatre, the show sure does pack a punch. The singing is incredibly powerful, and technically flawless, the dance routines are full of all the pizzazz of Broadway, and the sparkling costumes just keep on coming (not to mention the borderline crazy circus tricks that have me digging my fingernails into the red velvet armrests for a good chunk of the show). By the end of the evening, the
entire audience is on their feet, dancing along to Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’, as heart shaped balloons fall from the ceiling. It’s a bizarre scene, and distinctly un-French, especially compared to my trip to Samuel Beckett’s notoriously bleak Fin de Partie just last night, but it’s clear that the audience is loving it.
As the curtain finally falls and the lights come up, the auditorium is filled with a tangible post-show buzz, and once again I’m transported back to the rowdy clamour of cabaret shows gone by. This is the magic of the Folies Bergère.
*the most famous music hall in the world