moulin rouge at night

Féerie at the Moulin Rouge

My first visit to France several years ago was impromptu.  My dog had just passed away, and my friend was going to France the next week.  I jumped on board.  Needless to say, I had done little research and only knew that I’d like to see the famous sites like Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre.  With slightly more planning under her belt, Theresa wanted to see Féerie at the Moulin Rouge.  Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was game.

We were seated feet away from the stage and enjoyed a spectacular show.  I liked it so much, that on my second visit to France, I went again.  Those who know me know that doing the same thing twice is very uncommon. 

We had such great seats which the venue selected on our behalf that I couldn’t risk get anything worse.  As such, I splurged for the VIP treatment. 

History of the Moulin Rouge

Founded in 1889 at the bottom a hill in Paris’s fashionable yet rural 18th district (Montmartre), the Moulin Rouge opened to the public.  At the beginning, the cabaret threw champagne parties while dancers performed, though it wasn’t unusual for spectators to take part in the dancing as well.  Moulin Rouge simply attracted clients that liked to have fun.

In 1915, however, the theatre caught fire and was completely destroyed.  Upon its reconstruction 10 years later, the Moulin Rouge featured the Revue Mistinguett.  Mistinguett, born as Jeanne Florentine Bourgeois, was the most popular French entertainer at the time, and the highest paid female artist in the world. 

The theatre thrived until World War II when it was turned into a dance club and struggled until the early fifties when it underwent a renovation and revived its cabaret shows.  Since then, it hasn’t slowed down.  The Moulin Rouge holds three shows a night!  A dinner show at 7pm, and evening show at 9pm, and late-night show at 11pm.

outside Moulin Rouge

Pre-Theatre

I purchased a VIP ticket for 210 euros to a Saturday night evening performance.  My train into Paris being delayed and the subway station by my hotel being shut down on the day of my arrival, turned what I expected to be a leisurely evening into a race to arrive before the show started.  I certainly didn’t get to take advantage of my VIP skip the line entry as the doors opened at 8, and I hadn’t even made it to the appropriate metro station.

Upon arrival, a gentleman escorted me to my table in the balcony and presented me with a gift bag which included a program, a key chain, and a small bottle of water.  At the table, a chilled bottle of champagne awaited (which I can’t drink).  Having been rushed, all I wanted was some water and chance to order some food if possible. 

Lacking VIP Treatment

This is where the VIP treatment was lacking at best.  There must have been a miscommunication as the waiter never came over with water or a menu, and I couldn’t even get the attention of the older gentleman on the other side of the balcony. He never looked my way. 

Many minutes later I finally waved down my seater (and ultimately server) for some water, though he must have thought I was already offered a menu, as I had to wave him down again for that.  The older gentleman suddenly attended to me and seemed miffed that I didn’t know what I wanted within seconds of receiving the menu!  I asked for the same plate that the gentleman at the next table ordered.  The older waiter claimed it was a hamburger, though the open face sandwich didn’t look like a burger.

Fortunately, the seater served the food in minutes, unfortunately he placed a set of sliders on the table.  I was so hungry, I just said, “That’s not what I ordered, but I’ll eat it.”  The friendly seater and aloof waiter discussed the dilemma, and finally the helpful seater said since you aren’t drinking the champagne, we will comp the meal.  That was the best of my VIP service.

I was surprised to find that my VIP seat had an obstructed view of the left-hand side of the stage.  I would have never expected this to be possible.  As such I would recommend saving 100 euro by buying a regular seat and hope for the best.

obstructed view at the Moulin Rouge
pre-show band and dancing, column obstructs left side of stage

Féerie at the Moulin Rouge

Despite all the complaints, the show began, and I was quickly mesmerized.  It was fun to watch the production from a different perspective.  Previously, we were so close to the stage that we could see every muscle of the dancers, but not exactly the overall performance.  All I could think is how good they were.

Dancing and Singing

From the balcony though, I saw the performance, but not the close up.  I was surprised to see that occasionally the dancers were not in sync. Either way, it didn’t matter because the costumes and colors ranging from Egyptians to clowns made up for any slight differences in movements.  The artists donned elaborate decoration including hats, feathers, sequins, boots and more, just not always clothing that covered their “tops”. 

Dancing and singing in French and English, however, are not all that the show has to offer.  Other performances include a juggler, a contortionist, and roller skaters, to name a few.  The juggler could toss up 6-7 objects at once…totally awesome! 

Contortionist

The contortionist, well, need I say anything?  She looked like gumby.  Given I can hardly touch my toes, I was truly amazed by moves that made her head look like it was attached to her feet.

Roller Skaters

The roller skaters spun in a circle while completing acrobatic moves on a platform the size of a small trampoline.  They were spinning so fast and with such force, one wrong move would have landed them in the audience.

Animals

While these performances were amazing enough, the show also included miniature ponies and a snake tank.  The ponies drew delightful oohs and ahs from the crowd that squirmed as a cast member swam with the snakes!  The balcony treated me to an excellent view of snake show.  I cringe just visualizing the performance as I write this.

End of Evening

By the end of the night, I beamed with excitement, adrenaline and joy.  It erased all the previous mentioned mishaps.  The only thing that could have made the show better is if photos were allowed, though I understand why they are not.  I’m so glad I went again, however next time I will revert back to regular seats.

Féerie at the Moulin Rouge is a spectacular production that everyone should see while in Paris.  Visiting with the expectation that there might be a limited view, will assure everyone will leave happy.  ETB

moulin rouge at night

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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