Thursday, May 18, 2023


Cabaret de Paris. A Burlesque Extravaganza. 

Produced by Michael Boyd and starring Rhonda Burchmore. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. June 15 – 16 2023. Bookings 0262752700 or

 Previewed by Peter Wilkins


If you ever dreamed of going to Paris and visiting the famous Moulin Rouge but never had the opportunity never fear the Moulin Rouge will be coming to you with Cabaret de Paris. Prodigious producer and illusionist extraordinaire Michael Boyd will be teaming up with the legendary star of cabaret and music theatre Rhonda Burchmore and a team of dancers, aerialists, pole dancers and a contortionist to present a spectacle with all the excitement, pizzazz, glamour and spectacle of  Montmartre’s Moulin Rouge.

Michael Boyd performs his levitation illusion

With so much trouble and strife in the world, I ask Boyd  why it is that audiences are flocking to his shows. “What is great about Cabaret de Paris” Boyd says, “and why ir appeals to so many people is that it is pure escapism. It is beautiful costumes. It is amazing acts, gorgeous performers and it takes you somewhere else. It’s a show that we need here and now. It’s old fashioned. It moves very fast with incredible costumes, incredible talent and brilliant lighting, brilliant artists. You really can’t go wrong with that recipe!”

Boyd should know. Magic is in his blood. He learnt the magic that has been so successful for more than twenty years at his grandfather’s knee. His grandfather was a magician and his grandfather before him was a travelling Picture Show man who would show  movies for half the evening and then perform magic during the other half.

Headlining Cabaret de Paris with Boyd is cabaret and music theatre superstar Rhonda Burchmore who has just come off playing in Hairspray to join Boyd for his cabaret extravaganza. “Rhonda absolutely adores this show and she’s world class.” Boyd tells me. “She’s just so thrilled to be involved. This is her second round doing the show and she absolutely loves it.  On top of that all the dancers we have are ex Moulin Rouge and they are the real deal, returning to Australia from doing up to 8-10 shows at the Moulin Rouge each week. Not only do we have showgirls, we also have showboys in the French cabaret where they do the beautiful adagio  The boys also take part in the incredible Can Can where they do the kicks and the jumps which is fabulous to watch and the audience goes crazy”

Rhonda Burchmore stars in Cabaret de Paris

As well as the glamorous dancers there is a contortionist who also performs as a pole dancer. “She is extraordinary.” says Boyd. It is circus art athleticisn where she balances on a pole and performs tricks. It is mind boggling. There is magic and all those gorgeous costumes. It is a spectacle” In keeping with tradition, the show contains beautifully handpainted backdrops which give the show a very special lustre that is far more enchanting than whizzbang effects and huge LED screens. The curtains and the sets are simple but Boyd believes that there is something about the old fashioned entertainment art forms that highlights and frames the skill of the performers on stage.

For people who may have seen earlier shows like Circus of Illusion Boyd assures me that the only performer who is the same is himself and he adds that special sprinkle of magic. He is there to mix in with the dancers and keep the show moving. The artists have just come out of other shows to be in Cabaret de Paris. The Pole Dancer has been touring America and Burchmore has been doing Hairspray for months on end and the first thing she wants to do is get back on stage. “She even does a little burlesque ooh la la” Boyd teases. She is a true cabaret performer and tells stories about Paris and sings songs in French in gowns that she has had made at between $5000 and $10.000 each. In fact there are about a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of costumes and jewels in the show, including a lot  from the Moulin Rouge. Even the headgear and the feathers cost thousands and look exquisite. Cabaret de Paris is a show to excite all the senses. There is a touch of the topless tastefully bedecked with jewels and feathers, so much so that children who have come to the show have not even noticed, Boyd assures me. “It’s done in the old French tradition where it’s putting a beautiful woman on a pedestal and saying here is a piece of art.”

As I listen to Boyd’s  excited enthusiasm and passion, I can hear the true showman proudly hawking his wares. He is undoubtedly the PJ Barnum of Cabaret, the ultimate showman, trained at his grandfather’s knee and then after years of practising his art he worked in Japan where he found himself producing his shows for the Japanese audience with all the frocks and feathers and jewels and showbiz panache. It was in Japan in the late 20th century and early twenty first that he graduated from an illusionist to also becoming the producer which  inspired his reason for doing Cabaret de Paris.

An aerilist performs in Cabaret de Paris

Boyd was fortunate in the first instance to find an investor, but he now funds his own shows. He rents the theatres, hires the lights and lighting designer and pays for the costumes and everything. He has learnt how to effectively use social media and has a good grounding in the art work. As a result his shows are 100% self- funded. This would not have been possible without great houses for great shows. He has survived by doing shorter seasons and owning all the equipment and being the old style showman with years of experience and savvy marketing, “Selling tickets is not just about putting on a show.” Boyd says. This is one secret he will reveal. “If nobody comes you won’t last long in the business and I’ve been doing it all my life and still doing it with passion.”

Boyd is obviously a canny survivor and I was curious to know how he managed to survive the pandemic when so many other commercial producers and artists in general buckled under the devastating impact of Covid on their industry. “I was very blessed and pivoted quickly.” Boyd says. “I went to Perth and took a risk.” I’ve seen the arch escapologist perform his amazing illusion, so I shouldn’t have been too surprised to learn that he was also able to escape Covid.  He hired a twenty foot container and took Cabaret de Paris, Circus of Illusion and his magic showMystique across the border just in the nick of time before the border was closed and nobody could get in or out. He did his time in quarantine and through sheer luck was able to run all shows in Perth’s beautiful Crown Theatre. Audiences loved it and Boyd’s intuition and risk-taking paid off. After two seasons in Perth where people were still doing things while the rest of the country was in heavy lockdown, Boyd took his shows to Alice Springs and repeated the experience. “My intuition kept me turning quickly – just like a roadblock in my grandfather’s days.”

Cabaret de Paris Fangirls

“A lot of my friends weren’t so fortunate and did it really hard mentally and financially. Even to this day a lot of them have left the industry which is really sad. There’s always going to be an obstacle in front of us, but people still love going to see the entertainment.” And entertainment is what they’ll get when they go to Cabaret de Paris. Boyd knows that there is a particular hunger for escapism as we move out of the difficult days of the pandemic. He believes that people have had enough of being stuck at home watching Netflix or the TV. He believes that they want to get out and experience a theatre full of people laughing and oohing and aahing together. “Just being in a big group is also exciting for audiences and something that we value now and treasure. Every time I’ve gone to Canberra I’ve done really well so that has given me the confidence to bring Cabaret de Paris with Rhonda to Canberra’s intimate Playhouse  and the audience is just going to love it.”