Written by: Maria Agostini
Musical: Moulin Rouge! The Musical Starring: Aaron Tveit, Karen Olivo, Sahr Ngaujah, Danny Burstein, Tam Mutu, Ricky Rojas
Director: Alex Timbers
Book: John Logan
Choreographer: Sonya Tayeh
Review: Maria Agostini Rating: 4.5X’s out of 5X's
After seventeen years of waiting the moment is finally here. The Moulin Rouge! The Musical preview is finally happening at the Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston before heading to Broadway. Fans of Moulin Rouge have been waiting for this moment since the film came out, and now we have the adaptation we’ve always wanted.
The original Moulin Rouge film, directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2001, featured Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman as the leads of Christian, a young and ambitious writer, and Satine, a “woman of the night” looking for a way out of her tragic life. With Luhrmann’s unique style, the talent of the cast, and the energetic soundtrack, Moulin Rouge became an instant classic and gained a following of dedicated fans. The film went on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards, two of which it won for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design. Die-hard fans of Moulin Rouge have been waiting for a Broadway musical since the film’s release, but at the same time, fans can’t help but wonder how the film would be adapted to the stage considering its signature style and filming techniques.
When you watch Moulin Rouge the film, you are never simply watching a movie, you are taking part in a unique experience that is a work of art unlike any other. When you go to see Moulin Rouge! The Musical, you are being immersed in an even bigger experience. The moment you walk into the Emerson Colonial Theater, you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the theater and the structure of the building. The stage will stun you with its elaborate set design that captures the extravagant world of the Moulin Rouge and the vision of Baz Luhrmann from his original film. To match the extravagant style of the 2001 film, the stage is set up with a stunning replica of the Moulin Rouge windmill on one side and Satine’s elephant on the other. Each scene is given its own unique and vibrant set that matches that of Luhrmann’s without mimicking his style too much. The costumes matched the setting but brought the Moulin Rouge to a new level of sexy and were everything we hoped for and more for this production.
The plot of the stage production follows that of the film well but has some minor changes that help make the production its own. We learn a little more about Satine and her life before the Moulin Rouge while also seeing her relationship with Toulouse-Lautrec and Harold Zidler. We also see characters, such as the Duke, portrayed in new ways. Rather than the Duke being awkward, sleazy, and entitled, this Duke poses as a true threat to Satine and Christian’s relationship with his power, dominance, and charm. This version of the Duke doesn’t need a manservant to carry out his dirty work, instead, he has a reputation for playing dirty on his own. The relationship between Satine and the Duke makes her affair with Christian even more dangerous as the fate of the Moulin Rouge and all those involved are put at risk.
Though there are changes to the story, they allow for new twists, character development, and new opportunities for songs that were not used in the film. While the stage production keeps some songs from the original film such as Come What May, Your Song, and Lady Marmalade, there are new songs added that bring new life and energy to the story that was needed after seventeen years. These new additions cover some of the most loved songs by artists such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Outkast, and many more. Every time the actors began singing one of these new songs, you could hear the laughs and cheers from the audience in anticipation of a spectacular performance. Each song seemed to be carefully chosen and selected to best support the story and to showcase the actors voices in the best way possible. Some of the songs used you would never have thought to utilize in the contexts of the story, but not only do they work they almost seem made for the production. The songs and melodies will be stuck in your head for days after the performance and you will be rushing to find the soundtrack.
It was the singing and dancing that stole the show though. The stage was on fire every time the entire cast came together for a song and dance number. Sonya Tayeh should be very proud of the work she has done in creating some of the most energetic dance routines for this production. The cast was so charismatic and energetic that they lit up the stage as a group and wowed the audience as they came together. Separately everyone did a great job, together they blew everyone away.
What makes Moulin Rouge! The Musical stand out from others is its charismatic, energetic, and passionate cast. Aaron Tveit and Tony Award-winning Karen Olivo stunned the audience with their performance as Christian and Satine. Aaron Tveit took songs such as Come What May and Your Song and made them his own while still sticking to the classic energy from the film. His portrayal of Christian captured new innocence and passion that wasn’t quite seen in the film but works better for the stage. It was Karen Olivo’s grace and voice that made her a true sparkling diamond in this production though. Her voice filled the theater as she descended from the rafters for her performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. Olivo showed us a new and deeper struggle that Satine faced and, combined with Satine’s new backstory, she is able to make you feel sympathetic for the difficult choices she must make. But it is Sahr Ngaujah and Ricky Rojas’ portrayal of Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago that proves that there is still hope in the life of a bohemian. The two make the best bohemian duo and take the Moulin Rouge by storm as they bring Christian into their shenanigans. Let's not forget the villain behind the story, the Duke, played by Tam Mutu. Tam Mutu is the kind of villain that you will love to hate. Mutu makes the character his own and struts across the stage dripping with confidence, making him even more threatening to Christian. As the plot progresses, you will loathe the Duke and how he treats Satine, but you will adore Tam Mutu’s talent and stunning voice. With all this grace and poise, you will want to see more of Tam Mutu in the story, mainly towards the end. Six-time Tony Award nominee, Danny Burstein, dazzled the audience with his energetic, funny, and fabulous portrayal of the Moulin Rouge owner, Harold Zidler. Every time Burstein stepped onto the stage, he grabbed the audience's attention and fed off of their enthusiasm when engaging them in cheering and singing with the other actors. Burstein truly owned the stage and stole the hearts of audience members.
But it is actors such as Robyn Hurder as Nini and Jeigh Madjus as Baby Doll that brought the show to life and showcases how unique and spectacular the Moulin Rouge truly is. Hurder takes the stage with her magnificent dancing skills and attitude and owned every dance scene with a confidence you can’t help but admire. And Jeigh Madjus’ character of Baby Doll adds a new dynamic to the story of the Moulin Rouge. Jeigh Madjus comes out as one of the can-can dancers but slowly forms a narrative for Baby Doll that you not only feel sympathetic for but admire. Baby Doll’s story is one not often seen in such a storyline but is one that needs to be seen. The addition of the character Baby Doll and the clearly stated sexuality of Harold Zidler brings new life to the Moulin Rouge and breaks down walls with new levels of representation that the world needs. The diversity and charisma of the cast shows that there was a place for anyone at the Moulin Rouge.
The Moulin Rouge! The Musical preview neared perfection, but some viewers may find small issues towards the end of Act Two. As the final scene approaches, fans will expect to see a harsh and shocking encounter between Christian and Satine that leads into her desperately calling him back followed by a stunning group number where the entire cast of Moulin Rouge stands up to the Duke. However, though we do have a charming scene between Christian and Satine, the climax of the story falls a little flat and you can’t help but wonder, what happened to the Duke? You would expect to see a stare down between Christian and the Duke before the climactic twist, but we never quite get that and no answer as to where he went. There is a stunning final performance by the entire cast in an epic curtain call, but you may be looking for more of a climax at the moment. This is no fault of the actors though and there is still time before the Broadway premiere for changes to be made.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical was an amazing and spectacular experience that will amaze all theater goers. We at Critx highly recommend you take the time to go see this Broadway hit in the making. Take some time this summer and grab a ticket to see Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston or wait for tickets to the Broadway production to go on sale so you can have your chance of seeing this spectacular, spectacular performance for yourself.