“Fashion Freak Show” tells the story of Jean Paul Gaultier’s life and career — it’s a story that’s one worth being told. Gaultier is a fashion and culture icon. He made a skirt for men and also Madonna’s famous cone bra. He was the creative director of Hermès and has his own label. He’s a trailblazer, hiring unconventional models for the runway, bending gender norms, and setting the bar for innovation and creativity in fashion.
Though it’s called Fashion Freak Show, it’s actually a revue. And we don’t mean like a Broadway revue with old showtunes. Gaultier’s revue has singing, all kinds of dancing, elaborate costumes and fashion pieces, plus video and audio elements. It’s part-concert, part-dance show, part-fashion show, part-audiovisual installation.
Even if you don’t keep up with trends and fashion week news, you will enjoy Gaultier’s creations paraded across the stage. Among the 200 costumes, some vintage and some new, there are pointy corsets, a skirt made of tape measures, a trash bag dress, feathery head pieces and tails, fishnet everything…
If you like 80s and 90s dance hits, you will love the music in this show. So many numbers will have you wanting to get up out of your seat. Expect to hear music from Gaultier’s talented friends like Madonna and Grace Jones.
A cabaret music hall, Folies Bergère has a long and storied history in France. Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, and, most famously, Josephine Baker all performed there. In just a banana skirt, Baker took to the stage and performed her legendary danse sauvage. Gaultier pays homage to Baker in his show with two dancers, Joséphin and Joséphine, who perform a version of her signature dance — in Swarovski crystal-covered banana skirts.
Acrobatics and contortions, arial work and classical ballet, breakdancing and the Charleston, burlesque and vogueing (just wait until you see the dance battle). With exciting choreography by Marion Motin, a seasoned back-up dancer who has worked extensively with Madonna, every number is captivating.
In keeping with Gaultier’s reputation as an enfant terrible doing the unexpected and unusual, the show is whimsical and dream-like. There are dancing glittery teddy bears, rollerbladers with feathery tails, runway shows that turn into dance numbers (and feel like art shows)… and, magically, in the storyline of Gaultier’s life, it all makes sense.
Gaultier isn’t the only icon involved in the production. His co-director is Tonie Marshall, the only woman to win a César award for Best Director. Nile Rodgers, who has worked with Diana Ross, Madonna, David Bowie, and many more, is the music producer and director. Catherine Deneuve makes a video appearance, and Catherine Ringer graces the audience with a song. Among the talent on stage, there’s model Anna Cleveland, voguer and waacker Mounia Nassanger, and up-and-coming singer Demi-Mondaine.
In the words of Gaultier, it’s “fashion freak show because I’m a freak, we are all beautiful freaks.” Gaultier’s fashion and everything that comes with it — the rule-breaking, the playfulness, the weirdness — becomes self-empowering entertainment. You leave Folies Bergère with the distinct feeling that everything, no matter how weird or strange or different, can be beautiful.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show is playing at Folies Bergère until April 21, 2019. Get your tickets here.
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