Cabaret de Paris.
Produced by Michael Boyd.
Featuring Rhonda Burchmore. Rehearsal director and choreographer/dance captain
Matt Browning. Choreographer Todd Patrick. Costume design Cathie Costello. Lighting
designer Jeremy Dehn. Production Manager, Stage Manager and Sound Engineer Tom
Hawker. Executive Producer Jimmy Siu. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. June
15 and 16 2023 Bookings: 62752700
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
“When I say Merci Canberra, you say Ooh la la” Rhonda Burchmore exhorted the audience at the Playhouse for Cabaret de Paris. The legendary chanteuse with the legs that could launch a thousand racing hearts has joined forces with the inimitable illusionist Michael Boyd to present an authentic flavour of Montmartre. With all the flair of Moulin Rouge, the glamour of the Lido and the spectacle of showbiz . producer Boyd has conjured a cabaret to astound, a show to enrapture and a company to thrill and delight. From Cathie Costello’s dazzling costume designs to Jeremy Dehn’s iridescent lighting design and Tom Hawker’s uplifting sound design Cabaret de Paris offers a sensual feast of explosive colour and movement.
Nothing has been spared to capture the flavour of French cabaret. The showgirls are stunning. The male dancers are athletic. And Todd Patrick and Matt Browning’s choreography lends the show a gloss that dazzles and delights. The routines are slick and classy, the burlesque tasteful and discreet. The show looks a million dollars on the Playhouse stage, a glittering display of follies splendour, of feathers and boas and showgirls in skimpy costumes and flamboyant headdress.
Everything about Cabaret de Paris sparkles with style and sensuality and no one does it more than the cabaret’s leading artist, the phenomenal Rhonda Burchmore. She stuns the audience from her opening entrance in a spangly gold lame dress and launches into the breathy, sultry Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. But it is her hypnotic Whatever Lola Wants Lola Gets that holds me in her thrall, followed up in top hat and tails with Marlene Dietrich’s Siren song Falling in Love Again. Throughout the show Burchmore sings, tells stories, does a very tantalizing and utterly inoffensive striptease using the curtain and two male dancers holding feather fans for modesty’s sake. At one stage her stiletto gets unexpectedly stuck in the top of a chair. Nothing will phase this showtime trouper, and the slightest mishap is turned into a fun filled moment of comedy and clever recovery. Her frock changes would make a catwalk model green with envy. She is one helluva headliner.
Burchmore is supported by a breathtaking display of beauty and French flair. The high kicks are awesome, the acrobatics astounding and the miming of songs by the showgirls in perfect sync. Everything about Cabaret de Paris is sheer polish and precision. Act One comes to a breathtaking conclusion with the Can Can Polka and a gasp as the girls hit the stage with the splits. This is more Moulin Rouge than Moulin Rouge!
Producer Michael Boyd also gets
in on the act with his daring and bewildering acts of illusion. With nothing to
give away the tricks, Boyd and his glamorous female assistant make hearts skip
a beat as he slides the blades of steel into the box where we know the
assistant is concealed – or is she? She must be because she appears out of the
box at the end. We are left to ponder in amazement. Fiery illusion, escapology
and levitation leave an audience in amazement and wonder. Boyd is the showman
par excellence with a penchant for the dramatic and he has chosen the intervening
acts to thrill like contortionist Vernica Waite with an elastic body that can
be insect like at one moment and serpentine the next. Her pole dancing routine
is a feat of rubbery form around rigid steel. She is a malleable marvel to behold and make
an audience wince. From the graceful pas de deux to the riotous Can Can Cabaret
de Paris is a feast for the eyes and a cabaret banquet of entrancing delights.
In a grand finale of feathers and boas and a soaring rendition of I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folle Burchmore is who she is and her own special creation. “I’m 6’1 and well worth the climb” she jokes. Cabaret de Paris is Michael Boyd’s piece de resistance. It sparkles with glamour, towers with talent and excites with true Moulin Rouge entertainment. Sadly its season is a fleeting comet of cabaret at the Playhouse, and anyone who has missed this night of sheer spectacle and Ooh la la French fun will have to hope that Cabaret de Paris will return. It’s just too good to miss.