The show is over for the famous cabaret show at the Lido de France
Dancers, other employees and union activists gather in front of the Lido on Saturday to try to save their jobs and the history of the cabaret, known for its café-théâtre and its review “Bluebell Girls”. Artists are planning a performance to pay tribute to the place.
“I feel sad. It sounds like the death of cabaret as a place and as a genre in Paris. The cabaret style has made Paris what it is,” Jeremy Bauchet, assistant ballet master at the club, told AFP. Associated Press.
“The Lido is the temple of the Parisian cabaret revue at its most elegant, prestigious and entertaining. A bewitching parenthesis in a unique magical universe in French entertainment.
With stage stunts, an ice rink and a swimming pool, the Lido began to wow audiences before World War II and became an institution of Parisian nightlife. It has attracted artists, from Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich and Elton John to Laurel and Hardy, as well as celebrity spectators.
French hotel giants Accor recently bought the club and plan to lay off 157 of the 184 permanent staff. Artists and technicians will be the most affected. Accor said in a statement it wanted to get rid of expensive dinner shows and revues because they “no longer appeal to the public”. The group aims to “rethink” the shows, and plans to restore the building.
“The Lido will keep its name, but the cabaret will lose its soul. With the end of the review and the dismissal of 85% of the staff, Le Lido will become a basic place that people rent,” said Franck Lafitte, of the National Union of Artistic Activities.
The Lido, with the Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horse and the Paradis Latin is one of the last Parisian cabarets. Until now it has offered two shows a night, seven days a week, including 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 around the world and helped inspire a Las Vegas Lido franchise.
An online petition to save Bluebell Girls magazine has been signed by over 50,000 people.
“When the Lido reopened after the Second World War, people wanted to have fun. The Clerico brothers who bought the place wanted to make it a top-of-the-range place. They invented the concept of dinner shows, which inspired other places,” says Sonia Rachline, author of a book on the Lido.
“The shows are very French and Parisian, thanks to the sophistication of the costumes and the precision of the dance steps, but there is also this American craziness inspired by musicals,” added Rachline.
But while the Moulin Rouge enjoyed renewed interest after Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, the Lido is struggling with declining attendance and economic hardship made worse by the COVID-19 crisis. For some, the shows seem increasingly outdated. In 2015, the Lido attempted to reinvent itself with a new review by a Cirque du Soleil director that sought to empower dancers and show that “women are not objects”, but it didn’t have the expected success.
Accor said the cabaret had lost 80 million euros ($85.6 million) over the past decade. Lido employees expect to lose their jobs this summer.
People who have worked at the Lido – from dancers to dressmakers, dressing room staff and backstage technicians – have described the club with an unusually personal fondness.
“No other venue had waterfalls, ice rinks and swimming pools,” retired Lido decorator Yves Valente told the AP. “The Lido has exceptionally fast machines and special effects.”
Many current employees are afraid to speak publicly about management’s decision for fear it will jeopardize their attempts to save their jobs. A dancer pleaded: “the Lido cannot disappear” and repeated the motto of the club: “The Lido is Paris”.