As an avid supporter of the 2001 film of the same name starring my Scottish heartthrob Ewan McGregor and Australian beauty Nicole Kidman, it only seemed natural to be drawn to its namesake and take in the glam and glitz such a place has to offer. You got it! It’s off to the cabaret old chum...!
Located in the heart of Montmartre (the red-light district of Paris) amidst sex shops selling erotic memorabilia and raunchy attire, the Moulin Rouge (quite literally, the "red fan") is as spectacular as it is iconic. We arrived, 109€ (each) the poorer to a queue which ran its course down the Boulevard de Clichy, lit up with street lamps and the buzz of a crowd slightly stifled by the overbearing heat.
Once the queue started moving we were up and away and flapping our tickets at the door to suited waiters who scoured the room momentarily, decked with oblong tables of four to eight people. The majority of the seats were on the ground floor but I noticed that a cluster of tables had also been arranged on a balcony above. The ground floor surrounded a huge T shaped stage and there was no set seating per se; it really was all down to the attendants to choose where to place you.
I had wanted to dress to the nines for the special occasion; each lick of mascara and stroke of eye shadow had been delicately placed with precision. I was wearing a white dress with a bandeau adorned with golden sequins. The night was all about opulence and extravagance and I was going to be part of it. I was only lacking in long silk gloves and a feather in my hair.
The waiter smiled at me and my suitor and I gleamed back at him with a needy elegance, as if to ask with the bat of an eyelash to be placed in the most superior of seats. He swung us past various different tables, some empty, some full, before arriving at a half-empty table at the front of the stage. He called me Madame and pulled back my chair. We'd done it! We'd been seated like royals, with a view matched by none. It wasn't long before our Champagne arrived and the cool liquid was bubbling through my veins. Bliss.
The music started and the singers appeared with beads and faux diamonds hanging vivaciously over their slender frames. Each one of them a vision. The costumes were spell-binding; the lavishness, the colours, the feathers and the eccentricity. Each song or dance showcased a new magical ensemble as the troupe of the world's finest dancers performed in bewitching unison against the exotic backdrop. Their bodies moved like sculptures, chiselled and refined by the hands of an esteemed artist. From birds of paradise to peacocks, the dancers flaunted their costumes in glorious array, much to the excitement of the audience.
Perhaps the biggest highlights of the show were the acrobatic acts in the interludes. The sheer physical strength of the dancers was one thing, but the danger they placed themselves in was what made it even more provoking. The ability to balance their bodies on each other in such a manner that one slight twitch could prove to be fatal meant it was both exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. The control and skill possessed by these select performers was inspiring to say the least. We also witnessed a woman diving into a pool of snakes and watched in horror as she coiled the snakes around her body as she danced amongst them.
I couldn't say that I was aware of a narrative in the cabaret, but the show was not void of humour or character (the ponies being a definite favourite!) My one criticism would be the slightly 'cheesy' French songs and the fact that the singers were miming to a soundtrack which was noticeable given that we were touching distance from the stage. The proximity was fabulous though: the tiniest mole, scar or wink between the dancers didn't go unnoticed.
One thing which the Moulin Rouge was not was vulgar. Yes, breasts were sometimes on display, but a naked form in itself is not vulgar. It's how you choose to present it. This was art, not profanity.
Next stop (hopefully!): the Paris Opera!