Crazy Horse @ Crown Theatre
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Crazy Horse Paris is without doubt one of the most acclaimed cabaret performance destinations in the world. With collaborators such as Christian Louboutin, Karl Lagerfeld, David Lynch, Jean Paul Gaultier, Paco Rabanne, Miuccia Prada, and celebrity clientele including the likes of Elvis Presley, Madonna, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Beyonce, and Steven Spielberg, the bar is set for a show of epic proportions for their inaugural Australian tour. Expectations were extremely high for of one of the world’s most iconic cabaret shows, but the most bandied about word on opening night was, sadly, “underwhelming”.
Full of promise, and with a reputation as sparkling as their red bottomed shoes, it is with a heavy heart that this review is less than stellar. The show is, quite frankly, very disappointing. Is it seductive, visually stunning and chock full of pristine bodies? Of course. But the pinnacle is the exceptional lighting, which is truly the star of the show as it utilises the body as a canvas with admirable meticulousness. This is, however, let down by some other baffling production choices.
Aside from some magnificent feature performances, Forever Crazy is by and large a troupe of chorus dancers, strutting and writhing to what is, at times, some fairly simplistic choreography. If they weren’t beautifully presented, backed by an indomitable reputation and wrapped in designer costumes, it would be a largely forgettable experience. Up until the second act, that is. It is then that the performers truly have a chance to shine, which is a shame as a number of audience members had left by this point. They missed some truly spectacular numbers, although unfortunately these were the exception not the rule.
Pony Play is an intriguing fetish, so to see it played out onstage by the Crazy Horse dancers was a glorious turning point after intermission. The costuming was beyond compare, the ponies’ tails utilised to maximum visual impact, and raw sexuality was in the air at last. The use of poles to create a carousel of ponies was both a stroke of genius and mesmerising to witness. This was backed with an utterly hypnotic surreal realisation utilising mirrors, Upside Down, where that one thing that you never knew was missing from your life was revealed – butts, legs and assorted body parts suddenly multiplied in reflective surfaces for maximised viewing pleasure. Performed to a slowed down, sultry version of Britney Spears’ Toxic, it was magnetising, polarising and visually spectacular. It is nothing short of majestic artistry.
Scanner was an exhilarating number which broke the mould, shattering the atmosphere with a bolt of much needed energy that finally allowed the dancers freedom of expression, within choreographed limits of course. Frenetic, fast paced and a sheer joy to watch the women lose themselves in music and dance, they threw every part of their souls into physical rapture. It is an utter delight to indulge in their passion for dance.
A highlight for many was the sassy, cheeky Mr Fantastic, whose contortions left many in a twist. He’s a welcome reprieve as he lightens the atmosphere, bringing levity and laughter while indulging in some particularly engaging audience participation in the second half of the show.
The expected precision was missing, which can possibly be put down to opening night jitters in a new venue on an exhausting tour, but with such notoriously high standards, there’s simply no room for error. Several of the dancers faltered, either missing cues completely or merely notable in their lack of synchronisation in what should be an impeccable show.
Screens to either side of the stage were both unnecessary and distracting. During features, these played pre-recorded video of one of two dancers – understandable as they rotate featured dancers, but it ultimately meant that the filmed performances didn’t match what we saw onstage. There is always variation in a show, but it’s merely irritating to the senses, rather than adding to them as multimedia should work within a show. The screens were utterly superfluous. Get rid of them, please. It’s worth noting that the standout acts were also those without the screens in play.
The homogenisation of body types should be no surprise given the strict criteria imposed by Crazy Horse on their dancers – they must be 1.68m to 1.72m, the ratio of legs to body two to three, and even the distance between nipples is measured. There’s a very definite “type” for the brand, and their brand is strong – if you’re slim, long legged and petite. How is it a celebration of the female form when that form must fit a certain mould? A little representation of various body types would be welcome. In 2017, we want more from our performances and from our idols. We want to be represented in kind and we want you to demonstrate to the world why all women are beautiful.
Cabaret, as with all art, should leave the viewer feeling something. Anything other than dissatisfaction. It should be emotive and powerful. Good performance art pushes and challenges the viewer and changes even a small part of them. Allowing the dancers some creative freedom to express themselves, rather than simply conform to an ideal set long ago, would be a fascinating iteration of a historic company with the power to lead, innovate and break a possibly outdated mould.
Is it possibly a case of being overly hyped and expectations too high? Perhaps. Forever Crazy is an opportunity to indulge in some aesthetically pleasing light entertainment, but overall, it is heartbreakingly sub-par, and leaves one wondering if we are not truly being provided the best of Crazy Horse.