Folies Bergere fiscal woes may close legendary show

Paris’ longest-running sparkler, Folies Bergere, has advanced its announced New Year’s closing, instead going dark Sunday. Short notice for Folies’ 140 employees falls amid growing speculation that 122-year-old pioneer revue will not reopen after a nine-month hiatus.

While management says it is prepping a new show, set to hit the boards late next fall, dismal 1992 financial results have a giant question mark hanging over the grandmother of Paris’ cabarets.

Big losses

Rumors center around Folies’ $ 1.1 million first-quarter loss and projected $ 4 million overall losses this year. Fishnet show has failed to lure back tourists since–alone among Paris revues–it closed its doors during Persian Gulf war.

Acknowledging losses, Folies spokeswoman Brigitte Bourtayre says bumping up Folies’ current revue’s closing “was done because Christmas is a family time. That’s the sole reason we decided to advance.” Bourtayre says Folies actually closes windows Saturday. “Sunday night’s performance will be closed,” she says.

“It’s an exceptional move, off limits to press and public.”

Bourtayre says current program, “Folies en Folie,””has been seen by 1.4 million people since its 1986 opening and run its life.” Folies 1,700-seat theater, she says, will expand its current Monday-night avails as concert venue during projected nine-month closing.

Costumed negotiations

Owner/director Helene Martini, Bourtayre says, intends to preem new revue in either September or October and is currently “in top-secret negotiations” with a “Paris fashion designer” (Jean Paul Gaultier or Christian LaCroix) to design next revue’s sets and costumes. A spokesperson for Lacroix denies his participation. Gaultier’s people refuse comment until January.

Celebrated past

“The Folies will remain the Follies, though,” she insists. “It’s part of the French heritage. It’ll have those things the other shows have –the plumes, the women, the nudes–but it will remain the Frenchest of the shows.” Celebrated as the former home of Josephine Baker, Mistinguett, Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, Folies has been sole Paris plumer to carry on legit stage tradition, offering a single theatrical turn nightly.

Closure leaves Paris with only four big-name spectacles, Lido, Moulin Rouge, Latin Paradis and the Crazy Horse, all offering twice-nightly supper shows. Last big Paris spec to drop curtain was L’Alcazar, which closed in 1990.

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