BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL 2014: SONGS AND STORIES OF THE PARIS LIDO Brings Caroline Nin Back to Adelaide After a Seven Year Wait
Reviewed Saturday 7th June 2014
Seven years was a long time to wait for another appearance by the fabulous Parisian cabaret chanteuse, Caroline Nin, but the wait was more than worth it. Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido is based on her long run as the singer with the Lido revue, Bonheur, performing two shows a night, six days a week. Le Lido de Paris is on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées not too far from the Montmatre district, home to those famous early cabaret venues, Le Chat Noir and Lapine Agile. Caroline Nin is carrying on that great tradition of Parisian cabaret, breathing new life into the old songs and transforming new songs, and taking it to the whole world.
As her alter ego, Lola Lola, Nin tells, in a mix of spoken word and song, a little about the Lido and its history, and the people who work there. Nin goes beyond the Paris cabaret and also embraces the great tradition of Weimar Republic era German Kabarett. Naughty Lola and her infamous pianola, Ich bin die fesche Lola (They call me naughty Lola), written by Friedrich Hollaender and Robert Liebmann about Louise de Villiers (1900-1989), were introduced by Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film, The Blue Angel. So, A German Kabarett song provides the persona for this 21st Century Parisian cabaret character. This reminds us that French and German cabarets have fed each other with ideas from the very start of the genre.
Staying with German Kabarett, a poem by Bertolt Brecht that was set to music by Kurt Weill for his opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar), came next. This led, fittingly, to Whatever Lola Wants, by Adler and Ross, from their musical, Damn Yankees. We also learned a little of the history of the Lido and, in particular, the Bluebell Girls, who were created in 1932 as her own troupe of dancers by Margaret Kelly, who was known as Miss Bluebell. They did not become the dancers for the Lido until 1947 but they have been there ever since.
Audience interaction began with a 'victim' being selected to become Johnny, an inconstant lover introduced through Nin's marvellous rendition of Brecht's and Weill's Surabaya Johnny, an interlude that ended with an erotic version of Undress Me, much to the consternation of the hapless 'Johnny', who was asked to do just that. Big Spender, from the musical Cabaret, got the Caroline Nin treatment, but the audience was not even close to getting their parts of the song working, which generated plenty of laughs. Caroline Nin was a wicked sense of humour, and audiences love it.
It is her singing, of course, that sets her apart, blending that superb and expressive voice, with interpretations and phrasing that makes every song her own. There is that darkness of pre-war Kabarett always lurking in the background, ready to infuse not only songs from that era, but also far more recent numbers such as I Will Survive, and the Grace Jones song, Strange. No matter what she sings, every song becomes as individualistic as she herself. Part of her distinct approach to the songs, of course, is the fact that she is also a jazz singer, as well as being a leading cabaret performer.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, but not before the audience had begged for encores. Nin turned to Edith Piaf, the subject of her previous, very successful show here, and sang two of her best known songs, Non, je ne regrette rien, and La Vie en Rose. On a very bright note, Nin announced that she will be coming back to Adelaide next June, which will be great news for all of her many fans here.