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Les Folies Bergère Classic Paris Cabaret

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston at Les Folies Bergère.

Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston at Les Folies Bergère.

French Walery, 1926. Public domain.

The Bottom Line

The stuff of Paris legend, Les Folies Bergère is one of the city's most renowned classic cabarets and "theaters of the people". Opened in 1869 as Les Folies Trevise (after the name of an adjoining street), Les Folies Bergère has hosted performances by legends such as American dancer Josephine Baker, French writer Colette, and Charlie Chaplin. Known for its bawdy, bold acts, Les Folies Bergère has always been anything but highbrow. Today the venue continues in this tradition, and has even inspired a tribute revue in Las Vegas. A night out at Les Folies is guaranteed to give you a taste of a nearly-lost Paris.

Pros

  • Legendary cabaret with throwback ambiance
  • Historic venue features unique, classic Paris decor
  • Quality programming
  • Full drink menu and nibbles

Cons

  • Orchestra seating slightly cramped
  • For good views, more expensive seats are in order

Description

  • Address: 32 Rue Richer, 9th arrondissement
  • Metro: Grands Boulevards or Cadet
    Bus: Faubourg Montmartre (bus 67 or 74); Cadet (26-32-43- 49 or 42)
  • Reservations: By telephone -- call (+33) 0892 68 16 50 or reserve online. Scroll down the web page to select desired show.
  • Open: Hours vary according to showtimes. See program for more details (in French).
  • Drinks: Service at bar and at orchestra tables. Beer, wine, champagne, mixed drinks. Snacks are also available.
  • Capacity:1,679 seats

Guide Review - Les Folies Bergère Classic Paris Cabaret

What Better Than Cabaret?

My first encounter with Les Folies Bergère was for the occasion of the French re-imagining of Cabaret, the smash Broadway musical. I was only familiar with the 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli, so I was eager to see what kind of sparks a New-York conceived show about the free-spirited underground Berlin of the 1920's and early 30's, performed in one of Paris' most fitting venues, would generate. I wasn't disappointed.

The Ambiance

Walking into Les Folies Bergère, one feels transported to a less gleaming, artistically rough-around-the-edges Paris-- the one tourists come in droves to find (but usually end up at Starbucks). The decor is a far cry from the posh theaters near the Opéra Garnier or the classic Comédie Française: garish wall paintings and faux gold borders make the ambiance nearly circusy; this is a theater of the people, designed for underground, often bawdy acts. Pretension has no place here.

We're escorted to our seats at the upper end of the orchestra, which has been set up to resemble a cabaret. We're seated at round tables with small red lamps. The mood is perfect for the ensuing show.

Settling in

As scantly-clad performers take the stage and blow at saxophones in pre-show fanfare, we order a glass of champagne each (pricey, but ultimately worth the added touch of luxury) and settle in. The Paris reworking of Cabaret is every bit as delicious and tragic as I'd hoped, and with the orchestra a seeming extension of the set, the audience is made part of the action and drama. The artistically-charged, libertine spirit of Berlin between world wars came to life at Les Folies Bergère, whose own solid history seemed to summon the ghosts back with added force.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
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