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 I will be honest and admit I had no idea what to expect when I walked into Moulin Rouge for dinner and a show. My mind was filled with images of old-timey, classy, yet TB-infected Burlesque dancers, because movies are always reliable sources of information on a destination.

I walked into an elegant dining room in all kinds of shades of deep red, and sat down at a table relatively close to the stage with my three companions. We all ordered and eagerly waited for the show to start.

Moulin Rouge

After a while, the lights dimmed, the curtains parted…and two cruise ship lounge singers walked out on stage. At least that’s what it felt like. You know who I mean; An attractive man and woman, both in their 30s, dressed in sparkling, gaudy clothing, wailing out a ballad-lite version of annoyingly sappy ‘classic’ songs. The bland, dry food that we were served also did nothing to help me enjoy the medley of Barry Manilow hits. Soon, any couple in the room over the age of 60 had walked to the dance floor to contentedly do a slow waltz. We were definitely in cruise ship territory now.

As the singing died down and the waiter took our plates away, I noticed many local Parisians (don’t ask how I knew; you can tell a Parisian) filing into the dining room to fill the empty tables. They had made the informed decision to eat elsewhere and come here only for the main event. Lucky bastards.

So after another half hour, finally, the show started.  Jazzy energetic music started to play, a line of beautiful topless women in glittering sequined costumes came out with huge smiles lighting up their faces and it was…kind of boring. Honestly.

Moulin Rouge

Although it IS impressive on the outside when lit up at night.

Because here’s the thing about the Moulin Rouge show: it’s just not sexy. Perhaps I’m not the audience they’re aiming at, being a straight woman and all, but I don’t think the males in the audience found it much different either. It basically seems just like a classic variety show, only one in which the performers have chosen for whatever reason to appear topless. There are some song and dance numbers, a trio of female crooners that come out, all of them with their breasts showing, but after hours of seeing boob after boob after boob during fairly standard and tame dance numbers, it seems less ‘seductive’ and more ‘costumes accidentally got shredded backstage’.

[Which brings me to a warning: if you are the kind of person who thinks Janet Jackson’s boob showing at the Superbowl was second only to World War I in the downhill slide of American morality, this is not the place for you.  Actually, France is not the place for you either.  The table next to us had a family who had brought their 16-year-old daughter to Moulin Rouge for her birthday celebration.]

It’s a shame really, because the ‘in-between acts’, the ones that are supposed to be a break from the show, are insanely good. A couple does some risky and complex maneuvers on skates, a woman bathes with snakes, a trio of men do some Three-Stooges-meets-Cirque-du-Soleil impressive tricks, and so on. And there are some extremely talented dancers in the show itself.

However, all their energy and talent seems wasted in this. The show at Moulin Rouge is a cheesy, at times enjoyable and at times bland tribute to the history of this famous location and the district that surrounds it in Paris. It’s made for tourists, and lacks authenticity as a result.  If you want to go see what it’s all about for a night, go ahead (as long as you skip the dinner).  But I won’t be back.

Have you been to Moulin Rouge?  What did you think?