Moulin Rouge

If I think of Moulin Rouge various images come to mind; I must admit most of them are from Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film of the same name, which has helped to spark the imagination and fascination of this iconic place. 

The Moulin Rouge or “Red Mill” opened in 1889, as “the temple of dance”, where rowdy crowds would come to watch girls perform acrobatic can-can dances. Following a fire in 1917, the Moulin rouge was rebuilt and became a fashionable music hall, attracting high class clientele.

So on a recent trip to Paris (Christmas present from my husband), I decided that we would pay a visit to this famous venue. I really wanted to see for myself why this hundred plus year old building was still so popular, causing tourists to turn up by the coach load.

Stepping through the door of the “Red Mill” I felt I had gone back a hundred years in time. The atmosphere was electric and I had goosebumps as I entered the auditorium. There are authentic murals on the walls, the furnishings are luxurious, red and plush.

Guests are seated around various tables, each one adorned with a white table cloth, and a small red lamp, each lamp combining to create a warm glow throughout the theatre. The balcony appeared to contain original features such as booths for two, which create a cabaret style venue.

The staff were very attentive, friendly and professional. All members of staff are smartly dressed in traditional waiter’s uniforms, which add to the vintage feel of this venue.

Dinner and ticket packages start from 175 euros (approx £153) per person for a four-course meal without drinks.

Tickets are available for the show only and prices start from 89 euros (approx £78) per person. These sell out very quickly particularly for the 9pm show, so it does pay to be organised and book tickets well in advance.  We chose to eat elsewhere before the show and booked a ticket for the 9pm show directly from the Moulin Rouge website. There are two shows an evening the first one starting at 9pm and the second at 11pm.

The Show Féerie, is made up of four main scenes each telling a story mainly through dance, bright costumes and songs, with a few Shetland ponies appearing along the way.  I must confess I could not follow the story of the different dance scenes and I did have to refer to my programme to find out what was going on.

In between each scene was a speciality act regularly seen in the musical hall era of the 1890s. These acts were the highlight of the show for me, particularly Duo Unity who performed beautiful contemporary movement in a large hula hoop.

The troupe of female dancers or “Doris girls”, (named after the founder of the troupe), are tall, slim, attractive and move around the stage with the grace you would expect from professional dancers.

I did understand before I visited the Moulin Rouge that the show did contain elements of nudity. I have no problem with nudity and feel it does have a place in the arts.

For most of the show, whatever costumes the Doris Girls wore ensured that their breasts could be clearly seen. I struggled when it came to a spot in the show where three female vocalists sang a beautiful ballad topless. Why I ask myself, does the director feel that this is necessary for a ballad?

The can–can section, my favourite dance scene of the show was fabulous, with authentic can-can dancing, costumes and shouts from the dancers transporting us back to the early 1900s.

Nowadays at the Moulin Rouge male dancers, as well as female, perform together on stage. In my opinion the male dancers in this performance were not up to the standard I have become accustomed to seeing on stage. They were sluggish, out of time and did not smile or interact with the audience or their female dance partners.

Moulin Rouge is worth visiting to experience the atmosphere and history of this iconic place.

Personally, I felt the Féerie show was very dated, but from the applause given by the audience I believe I was in the minority.

MT