BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

Jean-Paul Gaultier, the man with the most famous sailor shirt in the world, offers fans a first-time review, halfway between a musical review and a fashion show, as exuberant as it is provocative, based on his many lives.

Delightfully upon arrival, we find the lobby of the Folies Bergères fittingly full of living mannequins with impressive headdresses and department store displays of original and fragrant perfumes. And hung above the stage in the theatre is a giant screen receiving projections throughout the evening, giving the show sometimes too much the effect of a music video. Over two hours of quirk follow in two acts, outlining the story of a legendary career told through Gaultier's own intimate perspective.

Through a succession of tableaux vivants mixing dance, catwalks and singing, we rediscover his works, beginning with his first fittings on his teddy bear as a child, then through his first runway show, and on to his sumptuous nights in London.

BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

The real stars of the evening are the costumes. The cast wearing them includes models and world-renowned dancers and singers exchanging roles throughout the evening. Demi Mondaine's (former contestant on the French version of The Voice) impressive voice delivers great hits of Madonna or The Doors well.

Other numbers are played as background music to key moments in Gaultier's career. Some cult icons like Mylène Farmer (actually, only a diva in France) or Kylie Minogue were bafflingly set aside for other songs less known to the general public. Madonna, on the other hand, got her lion's share with a tongue-and-cheek "Express Yourself", revamped as "Protect Yourself", and interesting staging of "Vogue", which was originally the apex of the duo's collaboration.

BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

As for the choreography, the unmistakable moves of the brilliant upcoming Marion Motin, of Résiste - La Comédie Musicale and Christine & The Queens, bring a breath of fresh air. Halfway between voguing and hip-hop, the choreography differs in and among each runway show.

Many VIP "cameos" (obviously not the real stars) punctuate the show with humor. In addition to Madonna, Catherine Deneuve, Cristina Cordula, Antoine de Caunes, Rossy de Palma and the hilarious French television drag queens Catherine and Liliane all show up, testaments to Gaultier's loyal following.

The show also shows that his life has not been a picnic, including the heartbreaking loss of his companion and his fight against AIDS. Even if gaiety is always the highlight of the evening, these touching moments occasionally remind us of reality.

BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

It is unfortunate that the entire show is not always up to the level of spectacularly staged runway shows central to each act. But not everything can be as good as the Berlin fashion show. The scenography of the Fashion Freak Show is perhaps a bit too classic for its video projections, which themselves are not always innovative.

A seminal career told through over 200 costumes, Fashion Freak Show would be a shame to miss if you happen to be in Paris, even though it's definitely more revue than actual musical theater (it's not really much of a biography either but rather Gualtier's own fantasy imagining of his life). For the many tourists who will surely be interested in the famous fashion designer, subtitles in English are available.

BWW Review: FASHION FREAK SHOW at Folies Bergère

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From This Author Patrick Honoré

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