There are no prizes for guessing the performance I saw at Paris’ Chatelet Theatre tonight.
The neon sign, lighting up the façade was unusual for the theatre but completely fitting for the show.
Admiring the view of the theatre, noticing details that I hadn’t before and listening to the orchestra tune when the owner of the seat beside me, a late comer, a young man, attending the musical on his own, like me, had us standing up like a Mexican wave until he slowly made his way in front of us, nodding and bowing while offering the occasional – excusez-moi and merci.
He had a slim novel in his hand. I was cautious not to appear too obvious as I tried to make out the title, author and language.
Could this possibly be the guy that sat next to me back in 2010, reading his book while waiting for the performance to begin with his belongings plonked on my seat and took offence when I told him that that was my seat?
The same guy who grudgingly retrieved his belongings from my seat. The guy who, when I was leaning my elbows on the red padded velvet ledge to admire the theatre told me unceremoniously to lean back and I snapped at him, that when the performance began I would. Could it possibly be him again?
It couldn’t possibly be, but I think it was.
Each year I treat myself to one night at the Chatelet Theatre.
Actually, to be honest, that isn’t completely true but not for the want of trying.
In 2011 the theatre had a repeat performance of My Fair Lady, which I had seen the year before and instead I took myself off to the Palais Garnier to see the ballet Onegin and was captivated by the performance and completely seduced by the red velvet box in which I was seated and of course, the grandeur and opulence of the venue.
The minute the tickets went on sale, I excitedly snapped up a place for An American in Paris in 2014, only to break my toe in the apartment the night before and was unable to go.
After hearing how fabulous the show was, I am still in mourning over that incident and missed opportunity. I tried in vain to give away the ticket, my regular, prime balcony spot but sadly, there were no takers and the ticket went to waste.
Besides one hiccup, being my broken toe and a repeat performance, I have managed to see a a show, in English at the Chatelet Theatre each year for the past seven years; My Fair Lady, a modern version of West Side Story, The Sound of Music and last year was probably the best I had seen; Singing in the Rain and this year, 42nd Street.
Therefore I would like to call myself a regular Chatelet Theatre goer and my regular seat is the first balcony, first seat closest to the stage and it has become a little quirk for me to gain the same seat.
However this year, I went a little crazy, mixed things up, and for la première fois – the first time, I chose a different seat and, I wasn’t disappointed.
Although my traditional spot offers a fantastic view of the theatre, it does require a little twisting in the seat in order to get a good view of the stage but now, my new favourite position is dead centre on the first balcony and it appears that Mr Cranky, he of the slim novel has switched places too, right beside me for a premium view!
After my very tardy and stressful journey to see Amadeus the movie on the big screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra and choir at the Philharmonie de Paris, I didn’t take any chances and made sure that I arrived in plenty of time to have a glass of champagne before the performance of 42nd Street.
Lucky for me, it seemed that the majority of the theatre goers preferred to wait outside in the cold and smoke cigarettes which meant only a few people were skulking about the gorgeous hall of the theatre that acts as a bar.
Even the adjoining rooms that are packed during intermission were void of people that allowed me to take some people free snaps of the rooms.
But was the performance good, I hear you shouting? Of course it was. Fantastic. The costumes and sets were astounding.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many sets were hanging above the stage and was enthralled by the slickness in which each transition was executed and then there was the costumes – will you allow me to say; Oh My Goodness!
The costumes were ever changing and spectacular.
Each and every time that I attend an event in Paris, I am overwhelmed by the support of the audience. Cheering at the top of their voices, clapping until my hands sting and curtain calls that go on forever.
Heading out to a performance in Paris, whether it be a ballet, opera, musical or rock concert, it is one of my favourite things to do and something I always look forward to.
It isn’t simply about seeing a performance but an entire experience, well for me at least. The venues, champagne at interval, the panache and the way in which Parisian audiences enjoy it and let it be known.
But of course the night didn’t end there.
It is also my tradition after attending a performance at the Chatelet Theatre to take a brisk walk to my favourite café in the Marais; Petit fer a Cheval where I can take a glass of champagne or wine, tell my friend Bouba about my night and sit quietly at the bar for a nightcap.
But there were a few more ‘performances’ to be had before I headed home.
There we were, quietly chatting away. Only a couple of people sitting around the tiny ancient horse shoe shaped bar from where it takes its name when a not very good bagpipe player decided to play outside the café.
My understanding was that the people who gathered around him on the street were not impressed with the noise, that they lived in the area and it was late but I was wrong. Instead they encouraged him to play more of his slightly off kilter tones and it was then that the waiters who raised their eyebrows, puffed out their cheeks in displeasure went outside to clear tables and began a jig to the music.
It was at this point that I knew I needed to go home. My quiet bar had now become raucous but this was only the beginning.
A party of birthday revellers arrived. One young lady in particular, sporting long plaited pigtails, a beanie and a singlet (in the winter) with a loud hearty laugh was helping her friends order digestifs.
The tranquil bar’s lights dimmed, the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday blared out of the speakers and everyone went wild.
Normally I would be offended by the noise, change of pace and onslaught of people but they were in good spirits and it was not offensive, it was fun to observe.
‘Come over here and join us’ the plaited pigtailed woman called out to me from across the small bar, gesturing with her arm high in the air, pointing at me. I quietly smiled and shook my head.
She wasn’t going to take no for an answer and slinked up beside me.
My friend Bouba explains to her in French that mine isn’t too good. She expertly switches to English and announces ‘please come and join us’, and again I respond with a smile but that I am fine and no thank you. I was about to leave anyway but she orders me a drink and leans in to say; I am sorry that we are disturbing your night, so please have a glass of wine on us, it is my friend’s birthday and we are celebrating and off she went, bottom wiggling, arms waving high in the air moving to the beat of the music and ended up behind the bar.
An unsuspecting couple arrived, she knew she was out of place. They were Americans, customers. ‘Can I help you, what would you like to drink’ she asks them in English in what appeared to be a completely sober and professional tone.
She took their order and they had no idea that she was drunk or didn’t work there but were happy with the service.
I wished her and my friend a farewell and smiled to myself as I walked through the streets of the Marais to my apartment.
Hilarious, nothing ever goes to plan in Paris and surprises of all kinds are always around the corner.