Magnifique? Oui!

Les Folie’s de Paris is a casino show with substance

Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion—or at least male performers dressed like them—croon in <i>Les Folie’s de Paris.</i>

Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion—or at least male performers dressed like them—croon in Les Folie’s de Paris.

Rated 4.0

In Las Vegas, the thing most teens did for prom and Homecoming (after a token appearance at the actual dance) was to go to a casino show. One of the shows I saw then was Mystére, a very surreal and very French sort of circus/casino show. It was, and still is, one of the most fascinating shows I’ve ever seen.

While the Eldorado’s new show, Les Folie’s de Paris, is no Mystére, it is pretty damn good. Instead of the usual “hot chicks dancing around in tight clothes” theme that tends to be prevalent in casino shows, the Eldorado has booked a show with imagination, comedy and (gasp!) even some substance. Not that there aren’t hot chicks dancing around in tight clothes—they’re present, but they’re not the whole show.

The roots of Les Folie’s de Paris reach back to 1985, when executive producer Claude Thomas opened a restaurant and entertainment venue called Le Gamin de Paris in Lille, France. A year later, or so the story goes, Thomas’ venture was so successful that he moved to a bigger place and dubbed it Cabaret de Paris, and in 1991 moved again and renamed it Les Folie’s de Paris. In 1998, Thomas branched out to Quebec and then, of course, to Reno in 2001.

It’s evident when you watch Les Folie’s de Paris that Thomas has been doing this for a long time. Music segues smoothly. Costume changes happen in the blink of an eye. Dancers rarely miss a step. Some of the humor doesn’t translate so well to American audiences, but most of it does.

A comedy segment that really cracked the audience up was a lip-synched version of the Barbra Streisand/Celine Dion duet, “Tell Him.” The two über-divas are played by men in drag, and the man playing Dion is especially authentic, from the hair and make-up down to the wide-eyed, lip-contorting, chest-pounding performing style she perfected in that damn Titanic video.

Meanwhile, a piano player sits off to left, cheerfully tickling the ivories on a white baby grand—that is, until his piano levitates about 15 feet off the ground and does a couple of slow barrel rolls. Why? I have no idea. It doesn’t have to make any sense. It’s just funny in that very bizarre, very European sort of vein. Hell, at one point, there’s a giant dancing cactus on stage.

But it’s not all zaniness. A segment that really grabbed my attention was a dance number set in a sultan’s court. A man dressed as a snake charmer opens a box, and out pops a petite blonde in a velvety purple bodysuit. She proceeds to stretch and bend and contort her body in a way that can be described in two words: “Ouch!” and “Wow!” And yet it wasn’t like a circus sideshow—she simply embodied the essence of a snake, and it was beautiful and dramatic.

Though the producer dabbles quite a bit in pop culture—everything from E.T. to Ricky Martin—he also includes a bit of tradition and what one would consider high culture. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have never—never—believed that a Reno casino crowd would enjoy a man singing opera-style in a falsetto voice. I mean, they were really applauding, and there weren’t even any hot chicks dancing around on stage.