The fabulous chanteuse Caroline Nin returns to Australia for the Adelaide French Festival in January, reprising her much-lauded show Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido. She poses as Lola Lola, a lead singer at the Paris Lido, performing works by Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Liza Minnelli and Noel Coward. She spoke to Limelight about the show.
What was the inspiration behind Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido?
I had been performing at the Lido for five years. When I left, I wasn’t just leaving a job, I was leaving a way of life. Transitioning from the glamour of the world’s best known cabaret, the glitz, the glamour, six nights a week, backstage with the sequinned dancing girls, the drama and theatrics back to a normal life was not an easy thing. So I felt I needed to write about it, to understand it.
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How long did it take for you to develop the show? Was it a smooth or difficult process?
I wrote the show in a year. It was easy really, the only difficulty was to choose the songs as there were so many that I wanted to sing in my show.
What does the Lido mean to you?
The Paris Lido is an amazing place – the history, the glamour. Once you’re part of the Lido, you never come out the same person. It was where I learned to perform in front of a huge audience. You have to be up to scratch, wear those glamorous costumes and super high heels, you are the show. It’s an extraordinary experience, one of a kind. I have kept the Lido de Paris in my heart ever since.
What was the thinking behind the songs you selected?
Showing the naughtiness of what is really going on at the Lido, behind the curtain, the drama and theatrics of the dancers, the performers. It really is a whole other world. The songs I selected are naughty, fun, sexy. Like the Lido itself and all those who make their life there.
Who is Lola Lola? How did you come up with this character?
I love singing in German, I am a great admirer of Marlene Dietrich and the Weimar Cabaret. When I arrived at the Lido and wanted to sing songs of Marlene, the band did not want me to sing in German, just French. I finally managed to get them to go along with me so I could sing Naughty Lola, and eventually some others. It went down really well and from then on, the boys called me Lola Lola and with word of mouth, very quickly, I became Lola Lola for everyone at the Lido.
You brought this show to Australia in 2014. Has the show changed in that time?
When I started the show, there were only covers that I meticulously chose. After a few concerts, I decided to write a ‘big’ number, to open the show with as a way of introducing the Lido, its secrets, its girls, its glamour. This song is called The World’s Most Famous Cabaret.
Which songs do you most look forward to singing?
A song called Déshabillez–moi from Juliette Gréco, one of the most loved post-war Paris performers and part of the oh-so-chic St Germain des Prés glamour set. She is still alive (88 years old) and is the last living legend of the post-war Paris performers. I adore her. I saw her live two years ago on the Champs Elysées. It was her farewell tour called Merci beaucoup, and I had the idea to translate that song to perform it to English audiences so they’d understand what it means. It means ‘undress me’ in English and this is a number I perform in the crowd rather than onstage.
You often do many shows in a week. How do you keep yourself in good health?
Oh, I have been doing this for quite a bit now. The Lido was the most physical contract in my career so far, as I was onstage six nights a week. You have to look after yourself both in your body and your vocal cords. I do yoga and weights. I do 20 minutes of vocal exercises every morning and another 15–20 minutes of warm ups before the show.
What’s the appeal of performing in festivals?
I love hanging with the artists: musicians, singers, actors, acrobats, all of them. We have a ball after the show. Very often, very late!
How do you want audiences to feel after seeing your show?
I would love my audiences to leave the show having had a great night, lots of laughs and a little bit of the Paris cabaret magic in their hearts too.
Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido plays January 13 – 14 at the Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre as part of the Adelaide French Festival
The Festival line up also includes the Seraphim Trio Plays Ravel, A Trip to the Moon, Art Stories: An Exchange with Zephyr Quartet, and Frédéric Vaysse-Knitter Plays Debussy