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Theatre / Can-Can

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Can-Can is a musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Abe Burrows, first produced on Broadway in 1953.

The story is set in Paris in The Gay '90s, when the Montmartre district is known for its starving artists and glamorous dance-halls featuring scandalous dances such as the famous can-can. The protagonists are Pistache, a former dancer who now runs her own dance-hall and boasts she never gives anything for nothing and has every policeman in Montmartre in her pocket; and Aristide Forrestier, a newly-appointed judge determined to clean up the district, starting by closing Pistache down. Aristide and Pistache fall in love, but have to struggle with mutual distrust and conflicting world views to reach a happy ending. A comedic B-plot features Claudine, Pistache's star dancer; Boris, Claudine's boyfriend who is a member of a colony of struggling artists; and Hilaire, an art critic whose pursuit of Claudine both encourage in the hope that he will help Boris's career.

Several songs from the musical, including "C'est Magnifique", "It's All Right with Me", and "I Love Paris", went on to independent success. A film adaptation was made in 1960, directed by Walter Lang and starring Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, and Louis Jourdan; it features a significantly different plot and characters.

This work contains examples of:

  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Hilaire's review of Boris's sculptures begins by talking about the joy of discovering a fresh new talent, before saying that in Boris's case he got no joy because Boris's work is terrible.
  • Beta Couple: Claudine and Boris, as the comedic counterpoint to Pistache and Aristide.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • After reading Hilaire's hatchet-job on Boris, Theophile's only comment is that Hilaire spelled Boris's surname wrong.
    • During the duel between Boris and Hilaire, Hilaire's second brings out two swords and offers them to Boris, meaning for Boris to try them and pick one for himself. Boris takes both and asks what Hilaire will be using.
  • Faint in Shock: The moment the duel begins, Boris faints from terror. Theophile, who has been most enthusiastic in encouraging the duel, is informed that as Boris's second it is now his duty to fight in Boris's place, and immediately faints too.
  • Frameup: Pistache derails Aristide's crusade by staging a scene that, when photographed, appears to show Aristide engaging in the kind of wild living he publicly opposes, and then selling the photograph to the newspapers.
  • Funny Foreigner: Boris Adzinidzinadze, the hot-tempered Bulgarian sculptor.
  • Terrible Artist: The artists' colony includes a sculptor, a painter, and a poet, who all demonstrate their work to Hilaire when he visits. They're all terrible.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Aristide's character arc. He starts out believing that his job is to uphold the Law, even in a case where a law results in injustice. The events of the play cause his views to shift, and near the end he states that he now considers his job to be to uphold Justice, and actively works to have unjust laws dismantled.
  • Malaproper: Boris has a collection of old Bulgarian proverbs that resemble mangled versions of old English proverbs, such as "There is no point trying to steal the horse after the stable door is bolted."
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Boris proudly declares himself a greater sculptor than Michelangelo Buonarroti, but has never had a public showing of his work let alone sold anything.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: The second act begins with Aristide waking up in an unfamiliar bedroom in an artists' studio loft, wearing unfamiliar nightclothes and no memory of the intervening period. The artists explain that they rescued him after he went Drowning My Sorrows and got himself in a fight with an entire nightclub full of people who already had a grudge against him.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Act one ends with Pistache dramatically rejecting Aristide, and act two begins with Aristide waking up in the artists' studio loft the following day with a hangover, no clothes, and no memory of the intervening space of time. The artists helpfully explain that he got blind drunk and picked a fight in a dance hall full of people who were already angry with him over his crusade.