Review: Moulin Rouge! The Musical
More than two decades after Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! hit cinemas, the glamorous jukebox musical has made its way home to Sydney, promising to delight fans and newcomers alike.
With the show hosted exclusively by the Capitol Theatre, its neoclassical interiors have been incorporated into the show’s set design to transport the audience into the famed club. Bright show lights and decadent red furnishings play a large role in setting the scene, while chandeliers hang amid rich red drapes and glowing string lights from above, and large recreations of the iconic windmill and blue elephant frame the stage on each side.
Simon Burke is one of the shining gems in the show’s high-calibre cast. Image: Michelle Grace Hunder (Supplied)
Punctual guests are rewarded not just with finding their seats with ease and prime views and photo opportunities of the stage and set, but can also enjoy a taster of what’s to come when the show begins: pairs of performers move slowly and pose across the stage and set-pieces like living statues, moving on or disappearing altogether if you look away.
Just like the film, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is filled with medleys of well-known songs, though the mainstay tunes like ‘Come What May’ and ‘Roxanne’ are performed alongside an updated repertoire of some 70 hits from the past two decades (think Lorde’s ‘Royals’ and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, among others). Though some of the additions slot in nicely, others feel more forced and it’s hard to divorce Rick Astley’s hit from the meme it has since become.
The musical opens with the ‘Lady M’s’ played (L to R) by Ruva Ngwenya, Samantha Doldemaide, Olivia Vásquez and Christopher Scalzo. Image: Daniel Bourd (Supplied)
The show opens with the ‘Lady M’s’ - Nini, Chocolat, Babydoll and Arabia (Samantha Dodemaide, Ruva Ngwenya, Christopher Scalzo and Olivia Vásquez) - performing ‘Welcome to the Moulin Rouge’, including fan favourite ‘Lady Marmalade’, and firmly establishing the show’s raucous tone that is quickly picked up and maintained by Simon Burke AO as the club’s proprietor, Harold Zigler.
Those who have seen the film will be familiar with the show’s story, but if you’re a newcomer (like I was), here’s the rundown. The tale follows naive American songwriter Christian (Des Flanagan) who arrives in Paris and quickly falls into the Bohemian movement and in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine (Alinta Chidzey). Though his love is reciprocated reluctantly at first, their potential relationship is complicated by Satine needing to court the Duke of Monroth to save the club from financial ruin.
Alinta Chidzey’s Satine and Des Flanagan’s Christian have an electric chemistry that shines against the show’s neon lighting. Image: Michelle Grace Hunder (Supplied)
Casting is a particular highlight for the show, with a diverse list of high-calibre performers and the pairing of relative newcomer Flanagan alongside Chicago star Chidzey proving to be a welcome change from the film. James Bryers brings the Duke to life with an alluring persona that fades to an increasing air of villainy as the show progresses, while it’s hard not to be charmed by Tim Omaji and Ryan Gonzalez as Bohemian duo Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago.
With stellar costuming (including some amazing quick changes), set design, choreography and casting, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is an all-round winner that will leave you humming its medley of tunes long after the curtain has fallen.
Though having 10 Tony Awards, an array of sophisticated pyrotechnics and other effects, and the claim of being the first Australian-produced show to open on Broadway could easily explain why it’s such an enjoyable spectacle, the real reason why seems to come down to the fact that its cast and crew have created and performed the show with a passion and energy that is incredibly infectious.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical will be performed at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre until September 25th, with tickets exclusively on sale through Ticketmaster’s website.
Image: Michelle Grace Hunder (Supplied)