From our journal entry of #ParisDiaries, September 3, 2017.
Au Lapin Agile Cabaret Artistique was in our To Experience List during this visit to Paris since we missed it the previous times. We became interested to watch performances here after learning from some Parisians that it is considered a showcase of how the Paris bar entertainment was like during the Belle Epoque era and through the Roaring 20s. It was also said to be an open market of artistic exchange among greats and not-so-great artists of those periods.
I was a bit disappointed because the performers were not wearing period costumes. It would have been a blast if they did. However, after a few minutes of being seated, I understood why. There was no airconditioning so it was a bit warm inside! Summer, anoh.
Since the cabaret’s website said they are only serving drinks, Wiel, Jet and I ate dinner at the nearby La Consulat, a historic and charming bistro along the narrow side street of Rue Norvins in La Butte Montmartre. We ordered mussels and French fries, salad, ham and egg sandwiches, which were made satisfying by the half-liter of Leffe beer each on the side!
Do not come to the cabaret without reservation. I emailed email@example.com a few hours before the show (it starts at 9 pm daily, closed on Mondays), and immediately got a reply from an Yves Mathieu on our seats reservation.
Arriving at the pink cottage-like cabaret at 8:45 pm sharp, we saw some tour groups at the gate with guides frantically besting one another with their narration of why Au Lapin Agile is considered important in Paris’ history. I heard Spanish, Chinese, and Italian.
So we were the first ones ushered in to take seats and we have the best seats in the house, in front of the piano and the table where the performers will be seated. We were served the house specialty- cherry wine, with 4 cherries heavily flavoured in its own-produced alcohol. That was the free drink included in the €18 per person. (Imagine Moulin Rouge charges €100, without dinner!)
We didn’t know that that was to be the performers’ table. As we were coming in, the pianist known as Jean-Claude was wonderfully playing Michel Legrand classics. Good that I managed to video a number (one of my favorites, “Windmills of Your Mind!”) before a staff asked me that it’s not allowed- although there wasn’t an announcement anywhere in the club about it.)
After a few piano pieces, a group of what looked to us as regular customers came in and started belting out French folk songs. Suddenly, we were transported to a different time and space! I imagined Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ernest Hemmingway, Henry Miller, Charlie Chaplin, Edith Piaf, coming here on different times and joining in the singing, story-telling-mostly comedy, and merry laughing.
The host pointed to some paintings left there as gifts by Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec. The former’s oil painting is of a flapper and a man sitting next to each other at a bar, entitled “At the Lapin Agile.” He painted it in 1905.
The performers did group and solo performances and were also keen on rousing audience participation that even if most of us (tourists) do not understand the French songs and conversations, we were coached to pretend we know them by following the tune, singing lalalalala.
Well, my spirit can’t be defeated especially when a lady performer started singing “La Vie en Rose.” Syempre, nakasabay ang low-lah! And another male baritone singer sang “Autumn Leaves” in French which I sang-along in English. Some eyes were on me. Hahahaha.
Wiel felt that it would have been a more enriching experience had we known the French language. Overall, it was unforgetable and worth the euros.
The goal: Take basic French language lessons. You’ll never know when you’ll end up in a French cabaret.