iT is a world-famous cabaret which has seen the likes of Elvis Presley, Edith Piaf and Laurel and Hardy grace its stage.
Now a girl from Leith who nearly gave up on her dreams of being a dancer is to join that list of illustrious performers, after jetting off to Paris for a new life as a Bluebell Girl at the prestigious Lido club.
Lauren McGhee, 20, who began dancing with Mary Phelan at Leith Community Centre aged five, took a shot in the dark when she sent her CV off to the world-famous cabaret venue on the Champs-Elysees, known for its exotic burlesque and cabaret shows since opening in 1946.
Held in the same esteem as the world-renowned Parisian cabaret the Moulin Rouge, Lido owners Joseph and Louis Clerico made sure each revue was more spectacular than the last. In 1958 the Lido Show was taken to the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas on a six-month contract, and continued to play there for 32 years.
After being invited to audition on the Paris stage where megastars such as Noel Coward and Elton John have performed, Lauren was thrilled to be asked to join the Lido’s Bluebell Girls.
Lauren, who currently lives with her family in Leith, told the Evening News: “It’s a dream come true. Around the start of the summer I emailed them a CV and headshot. They weren’t advertising for dancers, I just thought I’d give it a try. A few weeks later I was asked to come to Paris for an audition.
“During the audition I just kept thinking “Let me at least get to the last stage. I’ve flown all this way, and just to get that far would be an honour.”
“When it came to the final round we all got measured. 5ft 10in is the minimum height for the Bluebell Girls and I’m 5ft 10in exactly. It will be strange to be one of the smallest, I’m so used to things being the other way around.”
The Bluebell Girls were founded in the 1930s by Margaret Kelly, nicknamed Miss Bluebell because of her striking eye colour. She would only hire girls who were at least 5ft 10in as this opened up a wide pool of classical dancers who were considered too tall to be professional ballerinas. She moved her troupe to the Lido in 1948 and continued to watch over them until her retirement in 1986. In 2004, dancers from across the globe gathered in Paris to mourn her death at the age of 94.
“After the audition I was told they didn’t have space at the present time but would keep me on the books. I was ecstatic, even more so when I heard from them a month later, inviting me to start in September. I was just screaming. It didn’t sink in properly for a few weeks. I still can’t believe I’ll be living in Paris.”
It’s not the first time Lauren has moved away from home for her career, having been awarded a full scholarship to Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom at the age of 16.
“It’s an excellent school, but three months later I was back home. It may not sound like a long time, but to me it felt like three years. At the time I thought that I just didn’t really want to be a dancer, but once I got some perspective on the situation I realised I was too young to have moved to a city like London all by myself. Luckily when I was 18 the MGA Academy opened in Edinburgh, so I applied to go there. The course was equally as good as the one I had left in London, but I felt much more settled and after a hard day I could come home to my family.
“My mum was absolutely ecstatic when she heard I’d gotten a place at the Lido and my dad was the same, but he’s a bit worried about me going so far away. My brother Lloyd, who’s 17, can’t wait for me to leave. He’s got his eye on my bedroom.”