The Lido cabaret on Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées is part of the city’s legend. Celebrated for its exotic burlesque shows starring the risqué Bluebell Girls along with singers and other headline performers, it has for almost 70 years been synonymous with the glitz and glamour of nightlife in the French capital.
Every few years, the Lido develops a new show. The most recent one, directed by designer Franco Dragone of Cirque du Soleil fame, debuted in April 2015 and coincided with a complete revamp of the premises that involved a brand new stage mechanism to offer improved security and new features to add to the magic of the Lido.
“The Lido contacted us in December 2012 to come up with a design for a retractable stage mechanism that rises up and down to the stage level,” explains Michaël Frument, technical and commercial director of COMÈTE Industrie, a specialist in lifting and handling solutions based near Lyon.
“It includes two stages, a 50-square-metre ice rink and an 80-cubic-metre pool, all of which slide in and out as required. This was the first time we’ve created a mechanism for a cabaret, so it was an exciting challenge for us.”
The previous hydraulic stage mechanism dated from the 1950s and was showing signs of wear. It was hard to synchronize and had been modified several times in an attempt to make it operate more smoothly. Moreover, it no longer met the stringent safety standards required to protect the performers.
“One of the biggest challenges for us was to create a fluid and precise electromechanical solution in such a confined space,” Frument says. “The stage machinery is 9.5 by 7.5 metres and goes down 10 metres below the level of the audience, but the ceiling in the theatre is fairly low, so that didn’t leave us much room to manoeuvre.”
The solution was for COMÈTE to construct the mechanism in its entirety in the factory prior to the installation at the Lido, which the company did between June and November 2014. Four 75-kilowatt motors drive the mechanism of sliding stages, one in each corner of the structure, lifted by four eight-metre planetary roller screws supplied by SKF. When not in use, the stage layers are rolled back beneath the audience area.
COMÈTE is no stranger to precision. “Because we work a great deal in the nuclear industry, we are drilled in security and reliability,” Frument says. “It’s not an area where you can afford to make mistakes.” That precision is illustrated in the solution: The pool layer weighs 140 tonnes, yet it slots into place with a tolerance of three millimetres.
Once the stage had been fully assembled and tested, it was time to transport it to Paris. It was disassembled and put into 170 different packages and dispatched to the Lido on 25 trucks.
The final show using the old stage ran on 3 December 2014. Then the Lido became a building site.
Starting on 26 December, the previous installation was removed over the space of a week. It then took 17 days to install the new mechanism, which was up and running on 30 January. The floor was laid and then the lighting was installed. Rehearsals began in early March, and the new show debuted on 3 April 2015.
“Given the time constraints, we had to be extremely well prepared,” Frument says. “Indeed, we spent an entire year planning and rehearsing. We had planned for 21 days to complete the installation, but we did it in 17, so that was a great result. Furthermore, there were no modifications to do in situ because we’d already tested everything in the factory. Of course, we brought everyone who worked on it to Paris, to see the show once it was up and running.” Here Frument smiles. “It made a nice change from our regular line of business.”
The management of the Lido is also delighted with the new show. “The Lido is a mythical and prestigious place that has been dazzling audiences since 1946,” says Hervé Duperret, the Lido’s managing director. “More than 300 people work here to ensure that every night we lift the curtain on another magical show. The machinery here is unique, and the new show, Paris Merveilles, is set to run and run, to the delight of almost half a million people who come to the Lido every year.”