The excitement was palpable at Her Majesty’s Theatre as the audience took their seats for Cabaret de Paris. The show promised the atmosphere and excitement of a Parisian-themed revue with first-class entertainers and the daring beauty of exquisitely bejewelled dancers.
In this new iteration, Cabaret de Paris stars Rhonda Burchmore, definitely one of Australia’s most loved performers. She’s been on stage since 1980 and has starred in just about every musical you can name, at home, on Broadway, and in the West End. Rhonda is known for those dancer’s legs that go on forever – she even called her autobiography Legs 11. As she said on stage: “I’m 6 foot 1 and it’s worth the climb!” It’s also worth seeing Cabaret de Paris just for Rhonda’s spectacular costumes adorned with more sequins and glitter than the Sydney Mardi Gras.
The show is a very nostalgic recreation of a Parisian revue. There are feathers in every colour of the rainbow, spectacular jewelled costumes, and even a tiny bit of toplessness. It is about old-school showgirl glamour with fishnets and dancing shoes, aerial pole artistry and acrobatics, and an impressive illusionist, Michael Boyd, who can make his charming assistant disappear; he’s also the show’s producer. And there’s a flourish of cancan, with the dancers flashing their red underwear, so we know we’re in gay Paree. At interval, I chatted with the couple next to me – they were in their fifties and said they’d never been to the theatre before. They were at the show on ‘date night’ and were loving every moment of it!
Cabaret de Paris features seven showgirls who have all danced in Paris at the famous Moulin Rouge, the Lido, and other cabaret revues. They are accompanied by two polished male dancers who add a bit of cheeky charm to the show. There is minimal staging throughout but the show is enhanced by exuberant lighting. The only thing that’s really missing is the intimate atmosphere of a Parisian revue; you can’t really recreate that in a main-stage venue. This is exactly the style of show you see on major cruise lines.
Rhonda told the audience that she has always been a Francophile and has two standard French poodles at home called Bonnie and Blossom. “Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamt of being on stage with those glorious showgirls from the Moulin Rouge and Lido cabaret. Finally my dream has come true,” she said.
Whilst Rhonda may not be quite the dancer she used to be, she still has a strong cabaret voice and can belt out a fabulous song. From Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, inspired by Marilyn Monroe, to I love Paris in the Springtime and You go to my head, this is a delightful songbook. Cabaret de Paris closed with Rhonda giving a gutsy rendition of I am what I am from La Cage aux Folles, a song made famous by Gloria Gaynor. And then it was time to say Adieu to Paris and head for home, still humming those wonderful show tunes.