The American (indeed Hollywood) -born Gentry Lane, aka Gentry de Paris, has been carving a name for herself in Paris over the past few years as a lingerie designer, event producer and burlesque performer. Earlier this year I was very disappointed to miss her performance show which paid tribute to the-man-the-legend, Serge Gainsbourg, but I’m pretty sure that unless they brought the great man back from the dead, that show was surpassed by the latest revue, featuring live performances from Dita von Teese.
The Gentry de Paris Revue took place at the Casino de Paris – one of Paris’ oldest and most respected performance venues, which right below the stage has a floorspace dotted with small round tables, with each one displaying a dimly lit lamp, and the occasional one bearing a glass or two of something strong for those who didn’t want to cry when they saw the prices. Indeed everything would be set for the perfect romantic evening out, were it not for the fact that almost every one of the acts that lay ahead concluded in a beautiful young woman parading around the stage in only a diamante thong and nipple tassles. Yet surprisingly I witnessed only one (slightly older) couple leave after a few numbers – do they not know who Dita von Teese is and what she does?! Always wise to do one’s research before leaving the house.
The show opened with a performance from Julietta la Doll which was entertaining – particularly in its narrative mix of live performance and short film – although I thought it didn’t quite have the edge overall to have launched the show with the bang it needed. One of the first half’s most entertaining performances was Joséfiend in which we watched the silhouette of a barefooted crop-haired svelte character wearing a skirt of bananas, move up and down the stairs in a beguiling and extremely erotic manner. This obvious homage to Josephine Baker was mesmerising, and made all the more entertaining when the lights came up at the end and we saw that Joséfiend was in fact male – a top class performance from Brian Scott Bagley who was also the show’s choreographer.
Dita von Teese was inevitably the star attraction, and quite deservedly so. Famed for her Martini glass routine, that would have been a dirty word last night as she has since been sponsored by Cointreau, for which she now performs ‘Be Cointreau-versial’ which is a variation on her famous routine, and which proudly has a slightly different shaped, orange liquid-filled glass on centre stage. The beginning of the performance saw her walk towards the front of the stage in a floor-length orange and silver ensemble which was literally dripping with diamante crystals, shining and glistening uncontrollably. Visually, she was flawless – with not a hair out of place. This came to be matched by her performance which I could not fault – every step, gesture, look was clearly considered and choreographed, and then executed to perfection. The woman could not look bad from any angle – clothed or near-naked – and I was dazzled. The second half saw her premiere a new number – A demonstration of the medicinal qualities of Opium – a Japanese-inspired piece which opened with a Geisha-Dita complete with high ponytail of long, straight black hair, lying in an oriental four-poster bed. It was beautiful, but as I watched four red-gloved hands emerge from the back of the bed to caress/grope a writhing Ms Teese at her most exposed moment, I wondered whether this blurred the line between entertaining spectacle and something a little seedier. The jury is still out on that one, but apart from those 30 seconds, it was another extremely polished and professional piece which I can hold entirely responsible for me getting my Pilates mat out as soon as I got home.
Another strong performance came from Millcent Binks – clearly heavily influenced by Dita, but who has nonetheless created a very entertaining character for herself as ‘mi-femme, mi-fleur (half-woman, half-flower). Her skirt was made of large rose petals which she removed one by one in a very accomplished performance.
Aside from the aforementioned Joséfiend, the heterosexual eye candy for the ladies was predictably minimal – burlesque performance is after all a historically female-dominated genre – however this didn’t stop Warren Speed having a go. He began his number by moving to a medley of pop classics – a sequence which I felt was a little chaotic and failed to show off what was very likely a real talent for dance. However, he ended up showing us more of his acting – particularly comic acting – skills as he stripped off to the encouraging chanting of the ladies in the crowd, eventually revealing nipple tassles on both his chest, and his bum cheeks, much to everyone’s entertainment.
Dances were punctuated with songs which should ordinarily have been delivered by respected chanteuse Nathalie Lhermitte, who played Edith Piaf in the international tour of Piaf je t’aime – hence, I imagine, the inclusion of Piaf’s own song La vie en Rose. Unfortunately, for the opening night she was replaced by an understudy, but one who made up for a somewhat timid stage presence with an excellent and pure vocal talent, and whose reservedness actually leant her numbers a real eloquence which contrasted pleasantly with the extravagance of the dance pieces.
Considering the short run of the show (ten days) the investment in scenery, props and costumes is astonishing and must be commended. Overall, the whole show was enjoyably diverse and a very entertaining night out. If you are in Paris between now and 17th September, a visit is highly recommended.
Gentry de Paris Revue at the Casino de Paris
7th-17th September 2009
Tickets 24-90€ – book here