Following an underwhelming experience with the Moulin Rouge back in June 2017, the Bespoke Unit team apprehensively sought out another Parisian cabaret to review. After checking out all the options, Paul Anthony booked us tickets for an 8:30pm showing at the Crazy Horse Paris in February 2018.
Another legendary cabaret based in Europe’s epicentre of culture and love, the Crazy Horse was founded in 1951. Therefore, it’s more younger than the Moulin Rouge whilst being older than the Lido. Said to be a more risqué and burlesque experience, we were intrigued as to what to expect.
In this article, you will read our honest review of the Crazy Horse following our own experiences. We will cover all aspects from the show itself to the dress code as well as the extras such as Champagne and gift shop.
When Are The Crazy Horse’s Performances?
Like the other Parisian cabarets, the Crazy Horse is a well-oiled machine with performances every day including bank holidays. Due to demand, Saturdays host the most performances, which take place at 7pm, 9.30pm and 11.45pm.
Meanwhile, the rest of the week has two at both 8.30pm and 11pm. Nevertheless, note that some Mondays will at only have a single 8.30pm during certain off-seasons of the year. After all, the dancers will need to rest at one point!
Crazy Horse Tickets, Pricing & Options
- Show Only (Crazy Show): 105€
- 1/2 bottle of Champagne (Crazy Champagne): 125€
- Upgraded Champagne & nibbles (Crazy Premium): 165€
- Chez Francis & Crazy Champagne: 185€
- Le Fouquet’s & Crazy Champagne: 225€
- Crazy In Love Option: 200€
Although there are likely third party companies and travel agencies that can handle bookings, you can purchase tickets directly through the Crazy Horse’s website. Fear not if you don’t speak French, everything’s in English for a smooth experience.
Unlike the Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horse has standardised its prices for all the showings at different times. Furthermore, even when booking for the same night, the prices won’t pique due to demand. Instead, the cabaret seems to base itself on a first come first serve basis.
Similarly, seating seems to be based on when you book and the number of people in a group. There are seats with circular tables as well as booths available. However, seating will be covered a little later.
What Are The Chez Francis & Le Fouquet Options?
As you may have noticed, these two ticket options are among the most expensive on the list. Both offer a meal with the ticket but this does not take place during the performance as is the case with the Moulin Rouge.
Instead, the ticket holders are invited to one of two nearby restaurants with which the Crazy Horse has an ongoing partnership. Depending on the time of the showing, this can take place before during or after the performance depending on the showing time.
Whilst Chez Francis is next door and a reputed brasserie-style restaurant, the Fouquet is a historical hotel brasserie right on the Champs-Élysées. Nevertheless, the Fouquet is in close proximity and only a 5 minute walk away down the street.
Having tried neither restaurant nor the menu deal offered by the Crazy Horse, it would be hard to fairly review these. However, it’s interesting that they’re offered as options rather than a meal during the performance itself.
What Is The Crazy In Love Option?
For a more VIP experience, the Crazy In Love ticket option offers a few extras to the client. This includes the following:
- 1/2 a bottle of upgraded Champagne
- Savoury or sweet snacks
- Photo souvenir
- Souvenir Tote bag
- “Crazy” Beauty Box
Although the experience will be much the same, this ticket acts more like a bundle to include a few gift options as well as upgraded Champagne and snacks. However, the show itself won’t change nor will the customer service. This is a philosophy that’s paramount to the Crazy Horse as we’ll explore a little later.
However, if you wish to pick up a few souvenirs and include them in your ticket, this may be of interest. As the photos themselves (taken by a photographer when seated between acts) can cost 20€ each, the cost can increase quite quickly.
Where Is The Crazy Horse?
Unlike the Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horse is a much more understated location just between Paris’ celebrated Champs Élysées and the Alba Bridge. The address is 12 Avenue George V, 75008 Paris. Just look for the big red lips in the window and you’re there!
[Click here for directions to the Crazy Horse on Google Maps from your current location.]
How To Get There By Metro
For newcomers to Paris, the metro system can be a bit confusing but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s cheap and quick to get around. Firstly, consider the city like a woven spiderweb that revolves around the centre of the city. This is the Châtelet Les Halles station and shopping mall. From there, you can pretty much to navigate anywhere you want in less than 30 minutes.
Single tickets cost only 1.90€, which are valid until you step out of the gates provided that you’re within the first two zones. It’s also cheaper to buy a bunch or “carnet” of 10 tickets for only 14.50€. You can use the RATP to get around. However, I’ve found that Citymapper is far more intuitive and offers the ability to book an Uber directly if public transport isn’t practical.
The Crazy Horse is just off the Alma-Marceau station on line 9 (mustard line). However, unless you’re in the 10th or 11th arrondissements during your stay, it isn’t very helpful. Alternatively, you can take the line 1 (yellow line) from Châtelet straight to George V. This is much quicker and you’ll just need to walk down the Avenue George V when you get off.
Getting There By Taxi
If you’re adamant about taking a taxi, know that there’s a taxi rank just off the Crazy Horse so drivers will likely be happy to take you there. However, Parisian taxi drivers are a fickle lot and tourists may prefer Uber.
If that’s the case, you’ll be happy to know that Uber’s network in Paris is very efficient and you’ll be there in minutes!
Crazy Horse Dress Code
Right after booking your ticket, you’ll receive a confirmation email. Centred at the bottom, you’ll see a clear request for a formal dress code when attending the Crazy Horse.
However, if you head to the website, the tone is a little different. On the FAQ under the dress code section, you’ll see the following comment:
“In the temple of chic and femininity, an elegant outfit is appreciated. We invite you to avoid athletic outfits and sneakers and flip flops and shorts in summer. A tie, suit or an evening dress are not mandatory but are nonetheless welcome.”
In reality, most of the guests respected this to some extent with a general preference for business casual attire. Generally, the men would wear a suit and no tie whilst the women wore relatively laid-back evening dresses.
Meanwhile, there were a few exceptions who must have missed the memo and wore jeans, hoodies or sneakers. However, they weren’t refused entry and were able to see the performance. Conversely, there were also people who saw this as an occasion and dressed up accordingly. We even noticed that those who did so received compliments and thanks from the staff from time to time.
After the conveyor belt of the Moulin Rouge, we were left in disbelief when arriving at the Crazy Horse. Upon arrival, the door was opened for us by a Canadian Mountie (I kid you not) and we ere greeted by the front desk.
We were then kindly ushered down a set of red velour stairs into the venue. Before being taken into the concert hall, our coats were taken free of charge (although tips are welcome) by a friendly cloakroom attendant.
In terms of scenery, the Crazy Horse unashamedly basks in an aesthetic that can be likened to 1970s porn star chic. Red velour, red lighting and big red lips were to be seen everywhere. However, whilst this may sound garish, it worked perfectly in creating the atmosphere.
In fact, it was quite classy in a kitsch sort of way. The resulting lounge ambiance was intimate and luxurious with a rewarding sense of anticipation.
Afterwards, we were taken to the Maître D’ who welcomed us and called a server. He then guided us to our seats where a bottle of Champagne on ice was waiting for us. Meanwhile, the Maître de Cérémonie was crooning on stage to the other early arrivals.
Crazy Horse Seating
If you have read our review of the Moulin Rouge, you may remember our devastation when we found ourselves right at the back of the venue with no view over the stage. However, here we were practically front row centre.
The seats nearer the stage are in clusters of four that surround a small circular candle-lit table. On each sides were booths with a bar-like counter behind us. The overall setting was a stark difference from other cabarets we had seen and far more intimate.
As we were sat down, the waiter assured us that the fourth seat wouldn’t be occupied as we were a group. He added that he would return once the Champagne had cooled to open it for us.
Unlike other cabarets, the Crazy Horse is very small. As the Maître D’, Grégory, would tell us later, the Crazy Horse is a much more intimate venue than the other cabarets. Whilst the Moulin Rouge and Lido house 900 and 1,200 guests respectively, the Crazy Horse has a capacity for 250 people.
However, that number is usually around 200 in order to ensure a certain level of comfort for all guests. For him, this also allowed the staff to properly cater to all their guests’ needs and wishes whilst giving them the best experience possible.
Having been trained in Hôtellerie with experience at the Ritz, Grégory’s priority was service. He would make sure that every single guest was comfortable and had a good time. He added that their status or wealth was not a factor and he endeavoured for every customer to be treated equally.
Indeed, the Crazy Horse was a very comfortable and inviting environment and we didn’t feel awkward or neglected during any part of our stay. In fact, despite being almost the same price, the general experience outside of the performance was considerably more premium and exclusive than other cabarets that we had attended.
Is The Champagne Worth It?
As you will have noted above, each guest is supplied with 1/2 bottle of Champagne for an extra 20€. For those that don’t drink Champagne for whatever reason, this is converted into two drinks of their choice.
As we were three people, we were given a Champenoise (standard bottle) and Fillette (half bottle) to share. The labels were lavishly designed with red lips and gold lettering with the name “Crazy Champagne”.
However, it wasn’t an in-house brand but a special cuvée made for the venue by Comte de Cheurlin, a Côte des Bar Champagne house based in the Aube region.
Although not a particularly famous house, they have a reputation for making excellent cuvées. In fact, they supply not only to the Crazy Horse but state and diplomatic events too. Yet, I imagine that they don’t use the same label for the latter!
Made from a pinot noir and chardonnay blend, this Champagne was quite pleasant and not-at-all disappointing. Interestingly, the standard bottle consisted mostly of citrus notes while the half bottle gave overt strawberry flavours. Yet, this can be expected as Champagne matures differently according to the bottle’s size.
Overall, the Champagne was certainly worth it and added extra value to the entire experience. If you think about it, an entire bottle would come to only 50€. Although this is more than buying Champagne in France, it’s considerably less than any restaurant.
Now that we’ve explored all the considerations around the show that add to the experience, let’s talk about the show itself. Named “Totally Crazy!”, this particular spectacle is their routine performance that undergoes only a few changes every season.
Firstly, it’s important to highlight that as the venue is much smaller than all the other cabarets. Therefore, it can’t possible hold as many performers as you would get at other performances. However, this was far from an issue.
As mentioned earlier, the setting is far more intimate and being close to the stage, too many dancers would be overwhelming. In fact, there were never more than 10 performers on the stage at one time.
As guests continued to arrive, we were entertained by the aforementioned Maître de Cérémonie, George Bangable. This Belgian dandy is everything that you hope from a cabaret’s showrunner. Pencil moustache, bow tie and many changing outfits, he embodied the decadent swinging era of show business.
However, he was far from static and would regularly come down from the stage to mingle and interact with the guests as he sang. Oozing with charisma, his charm set the scene perfectly. With a thick accent reminiscent of a Belgian Maurice Chevalier, George would present the acts and entertain us later during the intermission.
The lights dimmed and the curtain rose.
God Save Our Bareskin
The show begins with an interesting interpretation of the British national anthem to say the least. Its world-famous opening scenes showcases the girls dressed as so-called Crazy Horse Guards. In short, they’re dressed in very little bar bearskin hats, white gloves and pound sign stockings.
Having been the opening number for the cabaret since 1989, God Save Our Bareskin is a celebrated act. Walking the fine line between spectacle and comedy, it felt like the Crazy Horse sought to parody itself.
All the dancers were on stage, marching together in unison. Occasionally, they’d turn on a heel and march with their backs facing us to make their behind shake. They’d then stand to attention and dress right as you’d expect from a military parade.
At first, we weren’t quite sure what to make of it. Indeed, it was quite funny but extravagantly kitsch at the same time. However, it was thoroughly effective at normalising the scenario of seeing nude dancers on stage. Therefore, it was an efficient approach in breaking the ice.
At this point, some may be asking themselves if they have not just stumbled into a glorified strip club. Well, not quite. Although the women are indeed nude to a certain degree, you never quite see them naked.
In fact, most of the performances are tastefully done and ensure to retain a sense of mystery rather than revealing all. The bare chests and buttocks are an inherent part of the acts but they are not the main attraction.
Smoke & Mirrors, Lights & Shadows
Instead, the performances often use clever light shows and shadow play. Through careful silhouettes and lighting, the dancers had a sensual aura of mystique around them. For instance, one act only revealed a pair of legs under ultraviolet light whilst the rest of the stage was curtained off.
As the legs would move with a burst of energy under a jungle rhythm, hands would wipe fluorescent paint on them. The resulting effect was a exhilarating spectacle of bright colours and flashing lights.
The artists should be applauded for their performances. The acts would vary from seductive posturing and sensual twisting to extremely arduous and complex movements.
Another example, which was both Trevor Guilday and Paul Anthony’s favourite, was the visually hypnotising “Upside Down”. Here, half the stage was a large mirror behind which the dancers would raise arms, legs and other members in an enticing way.
In this stunning scene to a slow rendition of Britney Spear’s Toxic, the Crazy girls would use their reflections to create unique geometric shapes with their bodies. The final result was a breathtaking feat of choreography.
Similarly, Dita von Teese’s celebrated “Undress To Kill” act was performed by one of the dancers. This featured the girl taking seductive postures while the lights projected various imagery on her body such as diamonds and damask roses.
However, my personal favourite was the an act where a dancer would pose in the shadows nude on a meridian-style chaise longue. Every time she moved her hands, it left a brief trace of light with a lace motif that revealed a bit of skin that would eventually disappear again into the darkness.
No cabaret would be complete with athletic and magical variety acts. In this instance, we were treated to a side-splittingly hilarious juggling act. Featuring two men dressed in business suits and suitcases, they would juggle to one another as they undressed.
As they threw their clothes at one another, they’d stack them on their respective suitcases. Once down to their vests, boxers and sock garters, they’d then begin to get dressed again. However, they each had the other performer’s clothes next to one another.
As one performer was bigger than the other, there was uproar as he struggled to button up the small trousers while desperately juggling with his partner. The extent of which the struggles and calamity as they comically made mistakes is still up for debate.
Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly entertaining sketch and I chuckled as I imagined Paul Anthony and Trevor Guilday trying to reenact this scene while waiting for the Eurostar the following day.
However, it was a shame that there was only one throughout the show. One more would have been a perfect addition to the roster to break away from the dancing and add more diversity.
Eclectic and fashionable, the spectacle’s music bridged the roaring twenties with other periods of sexual liberation. All the tracks chosen for the performances were relevant and very much in vogue with one foot in the 1970s kitsch the Crazy Horse embraces and the other in the 21st Century.
However, it was somewhat of a shame that the dancers mimed to the songs but never sang themselves, which was somewhat of a shame. In fact, aside from George Bangable, there was little singing and the girls remained somewhat mute throughout the performance.
Then again, their fatally elegant and physically demanding movements wouldn’t have made it possible most of the time.
How Does The Crazy Horse Approach Stripteasing?
The Crazy Horse was generally at its best when at its most subtle. Through sensually evocative posturing, you could liken the whole experience to a tasteful 90-minute James Bond intro. There were, of course, more conventional striptease acts but they never edged towards pornographic.
However, even these were excellent. One that particularly clung to memory featured a dancer wearing a top hat and morning suit reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich. Paired with another dancer in a corset and stockings, they’d undress one another in an artfully choreographed scene.
Whilst the act was the closest to a striptease, it felt more like a representation of seduction with strongly homoerotic undertones.
Of course, the grand finale treated us to a pole dance. However, even with this there was a twist. All the girls were on stage and swung between the poles together as they mimed along to a song called “U Turn Me On”. As the curtains drew, they gave us all a bow and blew kisses at individual members of the audience.
A Captive Audience
On the subject of audience engagement and interaction, the girls were excellent actors and fulfilled their roles marvellously. Making regular and prolonged eye-contact with members of the audience, they’d give us seductive glances and gestures. Sometimes these were in an aloof manner whilst others were exciting and tantalising.
The men in the audience were likely at their wit’s end towards the end of the show. Of course, the girls didn’t hesitate to milk this as the curtains drew and would point to individuals and blow kisses or make heart-shaped gestures with their hands.
I imagine that a lot of people left the Crazy Horse either madly in love or with a skip in their step. It was also the first time that I had seen Trevor Guilday blush.
Parting Gifts & Souvenirs
Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the dancers after the show. However, that is to be expected given that they had another to perform within half an hour. Nevertheless, we did take a moment to speak to the aforementioned Grégory who was delighted to share with us his pride and dedication to customer satisfaction.
During this, George was seen in an elegant smoking jacket and mingled with the other leaving clients. We had a brief chat where he told us about how the whole team was a large family and the long nights were moments that they cherished together.
George also seemed to appreciate our style with both Paul and Trevor dressed in custom Indochino suits. He even took a shining to Trevor’s Dapper Lapel flower pin, which was gladly given to George as a gift. Love is indeed in the air at the Crazy Horse.
Having already purchased a group photo earlier during the concert, Paul also perused the offerings at the gift shop. In fact, many of the items were quite interesting. Although there were some kitsch items such as whips and handcuffs, there were also some more premium products too.
Paul ended up leaving with a box of 6 Crazy Horse tulip Champagne glasses as well as a good book to read on the Eurostar back to London.
Does The Crazy Horse Belong In The 21st Century?
There are many ways to look at the Crazy Horse. You could either consider it to be objectification of women or an expression of artistic freedom. However, you could also argue that the Crazy Horse stands for sensual rather than sexual artistic impression.
Another perspective is that the Crazy Horse seeks to exalt and celebrate femininity rather than smother it. The impossibly perfect dancers symbolise women in a more allegorical way and transform femininity into an art form.
Perhaps the Crazy Horse is somewhere where the female form is showcased to be admired and worshipped? Meanwhile, the nudity is never revealed tastelessly but hidden behind shadow play and light shows.
It should also be noted that about half of the audience consisted of women and not all were attending with a partner. We even saw groups of women who went together to enjoy the show.
In addition, although the dancers each seem to fit a certain body type, they are by no means faceless robots. Each of the so-called Crazy Girls project their own personalities and identities when performing. Their names are often projected onto the curtain between acts and you an find their profiles on the official Crazy Horse site.
Similarly, they all come from extremely demanding and professional backgrounds in traditional ballet and dancing. After all, some of their complex movements requires them to be a both their physical and coordination pinnacle.
So, is the Crazy Horse sexist? Whichever way you swing it, it goes without saying that the Crazy Horse isn’t for everyone and it’s not a traditional burlesque show. Sometimes the cabaret hosts couples, groups of friends and it’s not unheard of entire families attending.
An epic adventure in sensual liberation and ecstasy, the Crazy Horse may not be everyone’s up of tea. However, it’s currently the best cabaret that we have attended in Paris. After the crushing disappointment of the Moulin Rouge, it has restored our faith in the Parisian burlesque art-form.
Is it fair to compare the Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse? Probably not as they’re both completely different institutions. After all, the Moulin Rouge is large venue that represents the Belle Époque caricature of Montmartre. However, it fails to truly embody this identity and falls into the trap of tourism and high demand.
Meanwhile, the Crazy Horse is an exciting and avant-garde spectacle in an intimate atmosphere, which it has created all by itself. If you’re looking for a night to remember whether with friends or loved ones, seriously consider the Crazy Horse as your cabaret of choice.