Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Synopsis: Set in Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France, at the turn of the century, a world of indulgent beauty and unparalleled extravagance, of Bohemians and aristocrats, of boulevardiers and mademoiselles, Moulin Rouge! The Musical tells the fictional story of an ambitious, lovesick writer, Christian, and a dazzling, entrancing chanteuse, Satine. Their lives collide at the Moulin Rouge with its many characters, including the host Harold Zidler, the brilliant and starving artist Toulouse-Lautrec, the greatest tango dancer–and gigolo–in all of Paris, Santiago; the tempting Nini; and The Duke of Monroth, the wealthy and entitled patron of the club who thinks he can buy anything he wants...including love.
“The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return!” One of the most poignant lines from Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film “Moulin Rouge!” is brought to life and reimagined for the Broadway stage. The story of the Moulin Rouge is a tragedy and a great romance. Satine, the headliner of the Moulin Rouge (portrayed by Ashley Loren), is promised to the Duke of Montroth (portrayed by Declan Paul). However, due to a mix-up at the introduction, falls for the newest bohemian on the Paris scene, Christian (portrayed by Derek Kleena), a struggling artist there to present his music in hopes that the moulin rouge will put it on. As the two begin their torrid affair while Satine begins her romance with the Duke to keep the club afloat, Satine’s health begins to decline. Lending to the struggle of while she chooses love or comfort, and can she survive with the choice she made.
This adaptation, winner of best musical for the 2019-2021 Tony Awards, highlights truly what it means to be a giant NYC show. This production has the viewer transported from the second they walk into the theatre. Scenic designer Derek McLane delivers a breathtaking transformation of the Al Hirschfeld theater by having the set burst into life throughout the space. From the rotating windmill to the giant elephant, the audience instantly is invited to navigate the visual feast which is their immediate surroundings. The space features 3D cityscapes, the illustrious Moulin Rouge, and Satine’s private dressing chambers to name a few of the well-thought-out sets.
Catherine Zuber’s costuming is both colourful and unexpected. Boldly staying within the time period set by the show, captivating the audience as the cast dances throughout the streets of paris, all the way back into the moulin rouge. Lighting design by Justin Townsend is something to be marvelled at, specifically the utilization of the green fairy’s appearance to have her consistently lit in green without it hitting a single other cast members. It’s no surprise that of the 10 Tony awards this won, the sweep was in technical awards. This show was a true marvel to experience. Choreography by Sonya Tayeh was fantastic, and kept the eye dancing between the performers, all at times doing completely different dance parts, creating a new experience for each subsequent viewing of the show.
Where this show faltered for this particular reviewer was in the musical arrangements and musical supervision by Justin Levine. Much of the music from the original film was adapted for the stage, and while the music in the film at times felt intentionally chaotic, the translation and cutting in of additional material into each of the already jam-packed music shifted it to overwhelming and manic. The show offered very few individual songs as their whole version, but when it did, many times the song felt out of place, despite the performer excelling vocally. One particular moment is when Satine is discussing feeling sick and having to seduce the Duke, sing’s Katy Perry’s “Firework” which initially lined up perfectly with the scene and then devolved into confusion over why they chose to include the entire song.
Derek Kleena as the replacement of Christian after Toby Winner Aaron Tveit left the role felt at times very underdeveloped. Many of the harder numbers shifted towards being pitchy and shouty, more noticeable due to the flawless execution of Ashley Loren as Satine. The true scene stealer’s however were Eric Anderson as Harold Zidler and the 4 featured Lady Marmalade dancers.
Overall, the Moulin Rouge was a technical marvel. It was captivating and intriguing and perfect to showcase why people gravitate towards seeing shows in NYC. Where the show faltered was not so extreme that it was unenjoyable. This show was jaw-dropping from beginning to end and a great choice for a spur-of-the-moment show. After the 20-minute opening number, I felt the price tag of my ticket had immediately been justified.
For this reviewer, the Moulin Rouge is a 3 out of 5 stars.
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