Michael Boyd, illusionist but also show producer, is bringing his reinvented version of Cabaret de Paris to Perth, Adelaide and Sydney this time with Rhonda Burchmore in the leading role. We had a chat to him about the show, being a producer, COVID impacts, illusions and magic and more!
ABOUT CABARET DE PARIS
Can you tell us a little bit about Cabaret de Paris and what your inspiration was for producing it?
Absolutely. Cabaret de Paris is basically everything that you expect to see in a big Parisian show from the Moulin Rouge or the Lido, all of the cabarets there. I wanted to bring all those elements of those shows, and put it into one production, but we put a spin on it as well and we modernised it. The main secret ingredients of course are having all the essential parties so showgirls – a lot of our dancers are ex Moulin and Lido dancers so you’re getting authentic, dancers that have can can-ned all their lives wandered around in feathers.
The other essential ingredient is those amazing costumes which go into a lot of detail, a lot of extravagance, with feathers and the jewels and all the hand stitching and beading that goes into them. They needed to be top class.
It is everything you expect to see in a Paris show rolled into one and we want to take you away on a trip to Paris for one night: escape the world.
It’s the closest we’re going to get at the moment.
It’s the closest we’re gonna get for a very, very long time. We are finding the show is getting a great response because I think people just, with all live theater but particularly the show, is this pure indulgence escapism entertainment where you sit there, there is no storyline is that it’s just beautiful dancers, costumes, singing, music, variety acts.
It’s a really entertaining show that it’s old fashioned, which has come back because people just want mindless escapism, I think at the moment and really delivers that. The audience you can see just loves it. And for those few hours, you forget every trouble in the world. And you’re just right here.
That’s exactly what we all need – a bit of escapism.
More than ever. Yes, every half hour things change as we heard yesterday [Melbourne’s lockdown no. 5 was announced]. In my case, so every half hour watching to step away from it and turn your phone off, not think about it. It’s the best thing we all need. It’s good therapy really.
PRODUCING AND PERFORMING
So you’re not just producing Cabaret de Paris but you’re also performing some of your illusions in the show. Are there challenges involved in both producing and being in the show?
I think it’s a plus and I do it with a lot of my shows. I always say my day job is the illusionist. [That’s how] I started out, my bread and butter over life has been getting on stage and doing magic: sawing people in half and levitating them. Appearing and disappearing is a daily occurrence in my house. And that was where we started.
I just expanded from there because I’ve worked in a lot of shows that were similar to this in Japan and Asia that had all the big feathers. So it was just a transition from one to the other, being a producer and being backstage and knowing what each performer needs, gives me a hands-on experience. I’m there to make sure they have the best sound engineer, the best lighting and the best costumes, all those things. And I’m really all over everything because I’m not just sitting back, and counting ticket sales or sitting in the audience. I’m backstage. I’m in every area of it actually. I’ll go into the lighting desk. And it’s not micro-management, it’s giving people what they need to make the show as amazing as it is. And that’s what I say my job is: giving everyone, including Rhonda, exactly what she needs to make the show incredible. And I understand that being a performer because I’m in and involved in it immersed in it.
Of course, that would give you that different perspective.
Yes, and it’s my money on the line too so you want to make sure that it’s making money! So it’s a two fold thing. So you’re really keeping an eye on it. I really like the diversity too, because I’m switching from advertising agencies and social media people, right through the bill of the tickets and the theaters. And then through the technical meetings as well, seeing the costumes come to life when a new costume comes in – the beads and the jewels and then finally, the creation from paper into reality. It’s just a really great part.
It’s what I love about my job, there’s a lot of elements involved in it. It’s exciting to see all that but I’m lucky I have something that I do that I’m passionate about and I make a living but I just have to run in and out of state borders at the moment!
Making a living from the arts is not easy. ever let alone during COVID.
I can tell you: I have been so blessed. I moved over to Perth last year when the big lockdown happened in Melbourne. And the casino there welcomed me with open arms, because no one could get in or out . I turned up with containers full of feathers, costumes and put on three productions and I was one of the only people Australia doing actually quite well in a pandemic. You’ve got to think out of the box at this stage. You’ve got to think fast otherwise it is so dire. Be prepared to change and move if something happens.
[NOTE: The Adelaide show has had to be postponed between the time of this interview and publication of this article due to lockdowns in the Eastern states and SA’s border being closed to most of Australia]
NEW LEAD: RHONDA BURCHMORE
So you’ve got Rhonda Burchmore in the leading lady role. Have you worked with her before and what made you choose her for this role?
I have seen Rhonda and met her, being in the business, many times. She is a dear friend. I’ve seen her work and recently at the start of this year, the previous lead, Marissa Burgess, retired from the role. She had done her thing. She was the lead in Moulin Rouge for 10 years and she decided it was time to pass the baton on and she’d done this show then for about nine years.
I took a long time thinking and then I saw Rhonda do a performance and I thought “that’s the next star of Cabaret de Paris!” She’s a seasoned pro, she’s so great to watch on stage, her personality, the way she moves, an amazing voice, and a really beautiful human. So, she has all the elements of the cabaret star that I need. And it was so lucky that when I offered it to her that she knows the show and was like “I’d love to be in it!” So there’s a mutual love there.
In doing so, we’ve recreated all those parts that Marissa did. We’ve got some exciting new numbers that are really refreshing the show, adding some new elements. Rhondafying it, as we say so anyone that has seen the show, you’re seeing an all new version really – all the classic elements, of course, the can can and the show girls and jewels and the costumes are there but Rhonda is really adding something else and also her personality and humour. She’s got some really great burlesque-y humour which surprised me. We can put it in there – it’s an adult show so it’s fine.
She’s doing amazing and emotional songs as well as upbeat songs so she’s really the perfect fit for the show. Absolutely gorgeous to work with both on and off stage and so much energy and enthusiasm in the new numbers that we’re getting. It’s just really exciting.
It sounds like she is the perfect fit. And she certainly performed in big stage shows across the world in London’s West End and on Broadway as well.
Absolutely. This is someone who has stepped on the biggest and best stages in the world and she’s done that with years of experience behind her and you only see that from a seasoned-pro like herself. Like the leading lady of any show that I’ve done to have that because they really need to be the glue, they need to hold it together and be the upfront sales person – of course there will be gorgeous dancers there and they’re going to be amazing and her voice is incredible too.
And you’ve got Rhonda singing some songs in French in Cabaret de Paris ?
Rhonda is doing some French songs. She makes it very clear up front, in a very humorous way, that she is not going to be speaking French. And you know, it is a French show and all parts of French she loves champagne, French toast, croissants, French biscuits. But she doesn’t speak French.
She has learnt some for some of the shows. And she’s doing some really classic French songs. Some of them are actually ones that we know but they’re in English. So it gives another twist because Marissa did them in French and we love them. And now we get to hear the lyrics of those wonderful French melodies. And it’s like a translation. So I love that part of it too, because I know a lot of songs that I never knew the lyrics until she started singing and thought :what a beautiful song”. So again, we’re doing a little twist on that.
CAST AND CREW OF CABARET DE PARIS
How many are in the cast of Cabaret de Paris?
We have a team of around 11 dancers that are in the show. We have a contortionist in the show who bends over backwards and really suits the show. We have a pole artist not a pole dancer like you see in a strip bar!. These are champion performers. What they deliver on stage is absolutely amazing. It’s like aerial arts and also very sexy as well. That really skilled, you know, top of the level pole arts and then of course, I add a touch of magic to the show through variety.
People really love still more than ever. People love magic because we love that magic gives you something else that “wow, how did that happen?” And that moment where you look at the person like “oh, my God how did that happen? There aren’t many entertainment forms they actually have that, where you turn and you say “where did they go?”. It’s a new layer to the show. So I love that it has so many different layers and really a lot of cast members so there’s around 16 cast and 4 crew so 20 of us troupeing around.
Would we know any of the Australian showgirls that are in the Cabaret de Paris production?
In this show, we have one of the leads, who was the lead for the Moulin Rouge. The lovely Courtney. She actually took over Marissa’s part in the show. Absolutely gorgeous. She fell in love with a beautiful boy. She was the previous lead and had to come back during COVID. She was leading the show for over 20 years in Moulin and now she lives on the Gold Coast up this way she’s met a boy and fell love. She is the most gorgeous show girl. Loads and loads of Parisian showgirls. No actual celebrity ones. Rhonda shines there but they’re best in the business.
There’s one thing I must say. One fortunate part of this with COVID – a good and bad side is that a lot of the dancers had to come back from Paris because of COVID. They came back from the cruise ships, they came back from the Lido. They’re all back in Australia. I’m giving them that a fantastic stage show to be in. They are so appreciative to be back doing what they love because that was stopped for them as well. I guess a two-fold edge there, having the show and having such authentic cast members that are just amazing.
Yeah, if it weren’t for COVID would probably still be in Paris…
Absolutely. They would all be in Paris or on a cruise ship or in a cabaret. The Australian talent here now… They’ve also come back from all Broadway shows as one as West End shows. So there’s amazing talent in Australia right now that needs to be on stage and they didn’t really ever appear in Australia.
Have any of them appeared in your previous productions of Cabaret de Paris?
Yes, we always look for past girls that have done it because it’s kind of a little bit of a Parisian family. A lot of the girls go in and out of Moulin Rouge. They’ve been doing the show for 9 years. They go back to Paris and come back. And that’s the other thing too when they do it, they all get to catch up like a reunion from all parts of Australia. I have the girls coming in from Perth, as well as the Gold Coast. But being very particular, I crossed Sydney girls off the list because it just got too hard. But the original concept with me, as I said, thinking out of the box, was let’s get cast members from each state so if one goes down, we’re not stuck, we can move along. And that’s the way you have to think about now when you do a show. Don’t have just one cast for Melbourne, because then you’re done. I only rely on Rhonda.
You just have to keep her close!
I do yes!
So you’ve been inspired by the Moulin Rouge and the Lido and other Parisian revues, have you attended them yourself and personally spent much time in them?
I have and I’ve been so blessed when I go there, being in the business, I was treated like royalty and got to meet all the dancers and go backstage. The shows over there are just overwhelming. I’m going to say one thing I was very surprised about, and I’m tooting our Australian trumpet here. A lot of the shows there that you’re seeing- the Moulin Rouge show is over 20 years old. So it’s an amazing show but you’re seeing a show that was created 20 years ago. And the Lido was a lot more modern, but unfortunately lost some of the old showgirl secrets or the secret sauce that we need. Crazy Horse was amazing.
We have not only elements of those, but we’ve done twists on them. So they’re not replicas, you’re not seeing numbers that are in there. I’m using the inspiration of those big costumes in the can can but let’s refresh it. So what we have is a much more modern production. And even Marissa who was the previous star said that many times. She said when you’re in Paris, Cabaret de Paris, both cast, costumes are way up there and ahead of a lot of those in some ways. Very, very fast with acts and numbers too.
I’m all for if something doesn’t work, take it out and change it. Even if it costs us money, we want the best show – make it entertaining. You might have made a track and you do the song and you know it’s not working, let’s try another one. That’s what we do here.
You’ve also mentioned that you’ve been doing Cabaret de Paris on and off for quite a while now since 2012?
Yes. Nine years. The very first one was at the Crown in Melbourne in which the Lyric and then it went to Jupiter’s in big seasons, and it’s kept going since it’s an amazingly timeless show. Obviously we tweak it all the time and refresh it but we keep those secret ingredients and people just love beautiful girls, beautiful costumes.
It is a topless show as well, often we find it’s more the the wives or the women’s are saying “do you want to go and see this show” because they want to see the beautiful costumes. It’s the way we do a Paris show too. It’s not done in a degrading way. It’s basically putting them on a pedestal showing their feminine beauty and it’s all done with class and no one is just naked.
Massive feathers that you can barely notice [the nudity]. Everything is done to just embellish everything that’s there. And there’s not a lot it. But yeah, I’m always surprised. It’s more than women that actually go “ I want to see this show”. It’s not the opposite with the husbands saying “ooh it’s a topless show I want to go”. If you’ve been to Paris, you know how they do. Exactly. Much more sophisticated.
Also, they’re not prudish either.
They just want to show how gorgeous the girls are. Nudity is not a big thing. I mean, it just we see it sometimes it’s different thing. But over there, it’s not naughty. They are saying here are these beautiful people on stage. We normally there’s only a few numbers that do that. It’s not the entire show – the ones with a the big feathers. There’s lots of other things that are to be of hip hop in this show. We have you know, there’s so many different styles of dance.
As much as I’ve lived in France, I’ve actually never been to the Moulin Rouge or to the Lido. It’s still on the bucket list. Did they actually have magic in the shows?
The really traditional Parisian shows will have a number of variety, and so have a juggler, and magician and maybe a contortionist or an acrobat trio, or some sort of circus act. So it’s about mixing the dance numbers, because if we see one after the other, we mix those in, they stop and suddenly there’s a new layer. And you know, let’s begin with the dance comes back to a different style to give you true old fashioned variety. It’s been around for years but reinventing it. And, yeah, so they do have magic in those shows, as well as a lot of other acts.
THE WORLD OF MAGIC AND ILLUSION
I did not know that. And of course, I should ask you a question about you and about the world of magic and illusion. So I read that it was your grandfather who introduced you to it when you were 13?
I think I was probably even a little younger. I was probably about seven or eight years old when I discovered my grandfather was a touring showman in the 1930s. He toured a half silent movie Picture Show and a half magic show in Victoria the country towns and sold the tickets and did the show. He was what you call the travelling showman.
When I discovered he had all these incredible – the apparatus, you know the magic scarves and the linking rings, he became my hero. And he would set up the old magic table in the lounge room and you’d have a different trick there. And I would first see the trick, and then later he’d teach me the craft.
It was really passed down from one to another and believe it or not his grandfather, going back further from there, it seems to skip a generation, was a magician migrated from England, performed before royalty over there. And he opened up the first waxworks in St. Kilda where he had a magic show with the wax exhibits that were there. I don’t know why it seems to skip a generation, I’m a third generation magician.
What is it that appeals to you about the world of magic and illusion?
It’s always the sense of and I think this is when you’re a child – and for kids, I see it now in them when you’re learning magic, and I was quite a shy child, when I grew up. And when you learn a trick, and you show someone and they go “Oh my god, how did you do that?” It gives you this sense of being able to do something that even adults don’t know how to do.
Suddenly, it not empowers you, but it kind of gives you confidence. And it became an addiction from there so I just liked it. I still love that feeling on stage. And when you see, you know, as I said, I can see people saying “Oh my god, where did she go?”. The child in me with the adult saying how did you do that?
The sense of wonder that you give that no other entertainment has. I’m not saying it makes me feel special or I feel that I have powers. It’s my little thing, I can’t sing, I can’t dance but I can do magic. Seeing that sense of wonder in people, seeing particularly children who are just astounded they believe in it. That is really the bread and butter of what I do – like any art form it’s not about the money and the other things – it’s about love and the passion. And creating new routines, a lot that goes with it. The new prop comes in, the music, the costume, how you’re going to choreograph this, how will it look to the audience. So there’s so many different elements there just in creating one illusion.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to what we just see.
Yeah, six or seven months work normally behind every routine.
I love it.
Spending that long on one thing, I’d hope so!
In front of a mirror!
We were talking at the very beginning of our chat about how this show was a nice way of escaping everything that’s going on in the world. And I guess in some ways, illusion and magic is that to it almost, for adults, for the ones that are actually going to sit there and be in awe, rather than trying to pick it apart and trying to work out how you did it, it’s that little bit of escapism.
Absolutely. And more and more that now I also produce a circus of illusion show, which is touring around as well. We found them to be extremely popular. And originally I thought it would be more families and kids going but we saw more couples that were booking in a weekend and going, because they just want to get away from it all. They’re going to the magic show, we’re going to stay in the hotel for the weekend, we’ll go out for dinner. And we’ve seen it on our Facebook feeds, these couples that have gone out and had this romantic dinner and gone to see a magic show.
It’s great to see that entertainment really crosses all boundaries and demographics:.young people, old people and I think more and more we do want something magical and we want to feel that maybe it’s something more. Maybe we want to disappear at some point.
Disappear and maybe reappear in Paris would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Wouldn’t that be amazing.
Can you work that trick into your routine? Just send one of us to Paris?
Oh, my goodness. I would but I tell my people “don’t go anywhere, stay here. Its nice and safe here. It’s hard enough to get in and out of borders here!”
CABARET DE PARIS – VIP PACKAGES
Thank you for your time. Was there anything else you wanted to tell us about Cabaret de Paris?
Tickets are selling well, as they always do. We do have one thing we’ve never done before: we’ve got our VIP experience. The VIP tickets are absolute premium seating, you also get the show program, a glass of champagne, only a very limited number of guests for this experience and afterwards to meet Rhonda with the show girls from the Moulin Rouge, and a photo opportunity with Rhonda Burchmore.
We’ve never offered this before we’re finding they’re selling really well, because that’s the premium product and a new experience for people that will really want to make something special out of it. And of course, a glass of champagne so lots of layers.
Do all cities have the same Cabaret de Paris VIP experience available?
They are available in every show we’ve added them in all of them and then new dates will be added for next year. We’re going to just finish these in these COVID times. The power of three. Do those three shows and move onto the next phase. Three shows in each of the three cities too. So there’s nine shows happening. The power of three I say.
We thank Michael Boyd for taking his time to chat to us about Cabaret de Paris.
KEY INFO FOR CABARET DE PARIS
WHAT: Cabaret de Paris
WHERE & WHEN:
Perth: His Majesty’s Theatre, 27 & 28 August
Sydney: State Theatre, 22 & 23 October
Adelaide: Her Majesty’s Theatre 6 – 8 December
CABARET DE PARIS –ADELAIDE
Ticket prices range from $69 plus booking fee for C Reserve to $129 plus booking fee for premium.
CABARET DE PARIS – PERTH
B reserve $79 to Premium $129 plus booking fee.
Restricted view seats also available from $39 plus booking fee.
CABARET DE PARIS – SYDNEY:
$60 to $233.33 for VIP experience
ALL CITIES – CABARET DE PARIS VIP Experience $229.00:
VIP Experience includes premium seating, a Cabaret De Paris VIP lanyard, 1 souvenir programme per couple, 1 beverage token per person, priority queuing at theatre bars, Q&A session post-show with Rhonda and showgirls, photo opportunity with Rhonda and Showgirls.
HOW: Purchase your tickets via the below links:
Have you ever seen a cabaret show in Paris?
For other events happening this month online and in person, take a look at What’s on in August.