Paris Theaters Overview

Folies Bergere - Theater in Paris

As in any major city, Paris theaters run the gamut from gritty little black box spots known for independent fringe productions to major houses hosting huge traveling shows to kitsch-packed madness made just for tourists (think anything having to do with Moulin Rouge).

Luckily, there’s a little bit of just about everything spread all over town. Those looking to check out some of the bigger productions of Paris theater will fare well on the Champs-Élysées, where major players like Théâtre Marigny and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (which is strangely located nearby on avenue Montaigne, not on Champs-Élysées) feature packed calendars of plays with big French stars on the roster.

Many of the theaters in Paris are housed in incredible historic buildings, though few can compete with The Comédie-Française, which was originally founded by a decree of Louis XIV in 1680. Although Comédie-Française’s “new” building went up in 1799, it has remained a treasure of Paris theater for centuries, and the names of nearly all the great actors and dramatists of France have been associated with Comédie-Française.

Yet that’s barely the tip of the iceberg of all the great theaters in Paris. Théâtre de la Renaissance, for example, was managed for a time by the famed Sarah Bernhardt, and big-name stars frequently perform there to this day. Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe focuses mostly on pan-European productions, while Café de la Gare is a great spot to sample what the French call café-théâtre, which combines satire, variety revue, and slapstick, all performed in a café salon.

From drama and dance at the Théâtre National de Chaillot to the complex of five multi-faceted theaters at La Cartoucherie, the theaters of Paris can make even the most devout Broadway lovers feel at home…so long as they speak French.

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