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Famed Cabaret Shows End at Paris Landmark

Josephine Baker and Elton John performed at club with waterfalls, ice rink, and pool
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 28, 2022 1:00 PM CDT
Famed Cabaret Shows End at Paris Landmark
Dancers Alicia, left and Charlenne pose during a photo call at the Lido cabaret in 2016.   (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

It's the end of an era in Paris. Facing financial troubles and changing times, the new corporate owner of the famed Lido cabaret is ditching most of its staff and its high-kicking, high-glamour dance shows—which date back decades and inspired copycats from Las Vegas to Beirut—in favor of more modest musical revues. Dancers, other employees, and union activists gathered Saturday in front of the Lido on the Champs-Elysees to try to save their jobs and the history of the cabaret, known for its dinner theater and its "Bluebell Girls" revue. Artists plan a performance to pay homage to the venue, the AP reports.

"I feel sad. It sounds like the death of the cabaret as a place and a genre in Paris. The cabaret style made Paris what it is," said Jeremy Bauchet, an assistant ballet master at the club. French hotels giants Accor recently bought the club and plans to lay off 157 of the 184 permanent employees. Artists and technicians will be the most affected. Accor said it wants to get rid of the costly dinner shows and revue because they "don’t attract the public anymore." The group aims to redesign the shows, and plans restoration works on the building. Accor said the cabaret has lost $85.6 million in the past decade.

The Lido started wowing audiences before World War II and became an institution of Paris nightlife. It drew performers including Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, Elton John and Laurel and Hardy. Until now, the Lido has offered two shows per night, seven days a week, with performances by dancers, singers, and the Bluebell Girls, a troupe founded by Irish dancer Margaret Kelly in 1932. Kelly, known as Miss Bluebell, toured with her troupe across the world and helped inspire a Las Vegas Lido franchise. "The shows are very French and Parisian, thanks to the sophistication of costumes and the precision of dance moves, but it also has this American madness inspired by musicals," said Sonia Rachline, author of a book about the Lido. Said a retired set designer: "No other venue had waterfalls, an ice rink, and a pool." (Read more Paris stories.)

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