The Moulin Rouge: I always knew it was a real thing, but my mind couldn’t get past scenes of the handsome Ewan McGregor serenading his love interest, Nicole Kidman, with a beautiful Elton John ballad, or images of a scantily-clad Kidman twirling around a dimly lit theater singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” amid all kinds of colorful circus-like characters parading around her.
I actually envisioned the Moulin Rouge theater to be tucked away in the middle of nowhere — I could picture the giant red windmill lighting up the night sky with no other buildings in sight. But contrary to my visions, the actual Moulin Rouge is located in a very busy part of Paris. In fact, you’ll find the theater in the heart of the red light district, or Quartier Pigalle, amid sex shops and adult theaters.
I almost felt like it was somewhat wrong to be here while with a tour group rather than a group of girl friends for say, something like a bachelorette party. But hey, it was all part of the Parisian experience! And knowing that I was going to the Moulin Rouge made it that much more authentic.
The bus dropping us off right in front of the theater with a red carpet leading to the front door made it feel as if we were getting the royal treatment. All I needed was my red carpet dress and handsome date, and I was good to go!
We entered a dimly lit theater packed with dinner tables and seats in front of a stage where a French band performed for audience members who were eating dinner and others slowly trickling in. This was a true cabaret experience!
Our group got an entire table to ourselves right in front of the stage, probably the best view in the house! The waiters came around presenting us with two dinner choices: fish or prime rib, to which I chose the latter. To be honest, I remember the conversation I had with my tour mate Kirk more than I remember how the food tasted. But I knew that it wasn’t the food that was the main highlight of the Moulin Rouge — it was the show.
After the waiters took our plates away, the countdown to showtime began!
An explosion of loud music filled the entire theater and a large group of very slender, topless women marched downstage toward the audience. I knew the show would be somewhat risque, but I didn’t expect this at all! Low-pitched roars sounded from the audience in what could be described as every man’s fantasy: to see an entire stage filled with nearly nude women singing while doing the can-can.
Not surprisingly, photographs were not allowed, but I’m sure you can envision the colorful and liveliness of it all.
Then, some devilishly handsome and buff men wearing suspenders marched downstage. Now the show was really getting started!
The topless women and men dancing around was so frequent throughout the show, it became the norm, and suddenly, it wasn’t risque or taboo. And the way they performed was more sexy and tasteful rather than disturbing and erotic.
My favorite number was one in which a male acrobat performed some balancing acts on glass cups to “El Tango de Roxanne” from the Moulin Rouge movie soundtrack. I was at the edge of my seat the entire time, but my palms clammed up as he lifted himself up with his head and no arms. Wow!
One of the most memorable moments, however, was when I — yes, yours truly — was called up on stage by a mime!
Most people know me as a shy person in general, but when it comes to being on stage, I’m really not afraid to get up there and make a fool of myself. The way I see it is, it’s so dark, you can’t even see anyone in the audience, plus I’m in a foreign city, so there’s a slim chance I’m going to know anyone in the audience. Also, the stupider you look, the better you’ll come across! I mean, imagine not giving your all — you’ll come across looking even more ridiculous and insecure. So I was about to give it my all when the mime gave me directions.
It does sound ironic that a mime would give me directions, but he did so using his facial and bodily expressions. He called up three other audience members: two guys and another girl, all around my age.
The skit ended up being really cute! Since I played the role of director, the mime handed me a clapboard and cued me to start the scene. One of the guys and the girl were supposed to be a couple, while the other guy played the “other man,” whisking the female character away. All in all, it was good fun!
So not only was I completely entertained throughout the entire show, but I was also able to do something completely out of my element and have an experience unlike any other. How many people can say they stood on stage at the Moulin Rouge? In Paris, France? At least I can.