The famed Lido cabaret on Paris’ Champs-Elysees has closed its doors.
In the midst of financial difficulties and changing times, the venue’s new corporate owner is replacing most of the Lido’s staff and its high-kicking, high-glamour dance shows — which have inspired copycats from Las Vegas to Beirut — with more modest musical revues.
Dancers, other employees, and union activists will gather in front of the Lido on Saturday to try to save their jobs and the history of the cabaret, which is known for its dinner theater and the “Bluebell Girls” revue. Artists are planning a performance to honor the venue.
“I’m depressed. It appears that the cabaret as a place and a genre has died in Paris. “The cabaret style made Paris what it is,” Jeremy Bauchet, the club’s assistant ballet master, told The Associated Press.
“In its most elegant, prestigious, and entertaining aspects, the Lido is the temple of the Parisian cabaret revue.” An enthralling interlude in a magical world unlike any other in French spectacles.”
The Lido, which featured onstage waterfalls, an ice rink, and a pool, first wowed audiences before World War II and quickly became a fixture of Paris nightlife. It drew stars ranging from Josephine Baker, Marlene Dietrich, and Elton John to Laurel and Hardy, as well as famous spectators.
Accor, the French hotel conglomerate, recently purchased the club and has announced plans to lay off 157 of the 184 permanent employees. Artists and technicians will be the hardest hit. Accor stated in a statement that the expensive dinner shows and revues “do not attract the public anymore.” The group intends to “redesign” the shows and plans to restore the building.
“The Lido will retain its name, but the cabaret will perish.” The Lido will become a basic venue that people rent as a result of the end of the revue and the layoff of 85 percent of the staff,” said Franck Lafitte of the National Union of Artistic Activities.
The Lido is one of the last remaining Parisian cabarets, along with the Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse, and the Paradis Latin. Until now, it has offered two shows per night, seven days a week, featuring dancers, singers, and the Bluebell Girls, a troupe founded in 1932 by Irish dancer Margaret Kelly. Kelly, also known as Miss Bluebell, toured the world with her troupe and inspired a Las Vegas Lido franchise.
Over 50,000 people have signed an online petition to save the Bluebell Girls revue.
“When the Lido reopened after WWII, people wanted to have a good time. The Clerico brothers, who purchased the property, intended to turn it into a high-end venue. They invented dinner shows, which inspired other venues,” said Sonia Rachline, author of a book about the Lido.
“The shows are very French and Parisian, thanks to the sophistication of the costumes and the precision of the dance moves,” Rachline explained, “but it also has this American madness inspired by musicals.”
However, while the Moulin Rouge benefited from renewed interest following Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, the Lido has struggled with a drop in attendance and economic difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Some people believe that the shows are becoming increasingly out of date. The Lido attempted to reinvent itself in 2015 with a new revue directed by a Cirque du Soleil director who aimed to empower the dancers and demonstrate that “women are not objects,” but it was not as successful as hoped.
According to Accor, the cabaret has lost 80 million euros ($85.6 million) in the last ten years. Employees at Lido anticipate losing their jobs this summer.
People who worked at the Lido, from dancers to dressmakers, dressing room staff, and backstage technicians, described it with an unusually personal attachment.
“There was no other venue with waterfalls, an ice rink, and a pool,” retired Lido set designer Yves Valente told the Associated Press. “The Lido features lightning-fast machinery and special effects.”
Many current employees are reluctant to speak publicly about the management decision for fear of jeopardizing their efforts to keep their jobs. “The Lido can’t disappear,” one dancer pleaded, repeating the club’s motto: “The Lido is Paris.”