After many delays after an already exhaustive wait, the Piccadilly Theatre has finally welcomed London’s latest musical – Moulin Rouge! I was lucky enough to attend a performance of the show shortly before Christmas, and now it has officially opened, I’m finally allowed to share my thoughts!
Based upon Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 jukebox musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is the latest Broadway import. The show follows the same plot as the film with a young writer, Christian, falling in love with Satine, the headline act at the famous Moulin Rouge club, though she has been promised to Duke of Monroth.
Die-hard fans of the movie might be a tad sceptical about seeing how it has translated onto the stage, but Moulin Rouge! The Musical is pretty much the same as the film, even with its numerous changes. The few changes that have been made are mostly there to help the transition from screen to stage, so none of them really bothered me except the addition of one song…
Welcome to the Moulin Rouge!
Like the film, the show takes pop songs from across recent decades and blends them seamlessly into the story, often mashing-up multiple songs into one. I’ve seen a few complaints about how the show handles them, with some critics comparing it to karaoke and pantomimes, but I can’t disagree more. The music and the songs, coupled with Sonya Tayeh’s stellar choreography, create a near non-stop electric experience you can only find in certain shows, such as Hamilton.
As far as I could tell, the songs are the same as the Broadway production with no alterations to account for the British audience, although, like Broadway, there are extra songs not featured on the soundtrack. It’s not a massive complaint, but Katy Perry’s Firework was the only song that stood out to me as out of place. It seemed odd that Firework has its own solo number, performed as a ballad when there are so many other options to choose from.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical isn’t just a show, but a whole experience that begins when you step foot in the theatre which has been decorated to look like you’re inside a real cabaret club. With chandeliers, performance platforms, dance cages, and even smaller versions of the Moulin Rouge’s windmill and the movie’s elephant! You’ll be sitting in your seat, looking everywhere you can to see all of the incredible details set designer Derek McLane has spread across the entirety of the theatre.
An Outstanding Cast
Liisi LaFontaine and Jamie Bogyo lead the show as Santine and Christian. However, I can’t say anything about LaFontaine’s performance because I saw her alternate, Tanisha Spring. Bogyo and Spring were fantastic and brought their characters to life in the same spirit as Kidman and McGregor without outright copying them. Spring is a true star in the making and I don’t think it’ll be the last we hear of her.
In major supporting roles is Clive Carter as Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge, and Simon Bailey as the slimy Duke de Monroth. Carter’s Harold Zidler was an absolute joy to watch, and the amount of fun he was having radiated across the audience. Bailey’s Duke de Monroth was quite the departure from his film counterpart since his clownishness has been replaced by a dark sexiness that makes the Duke feel like a completely different character. Bailey may be more reserved than most of the other cast members, mostly due to his character’s mystique, but he still creates an exuberant performance that takes over the stage.
The Troublesome Trio
Rounding out the principal cast is Jason Pennycooke as Toulouse-Lautrec and Elia Lo Tauro as Santiago, two men who befriend Christian shortly after he arrives in Paris. Toulouse is fleshed out more in the show with a friendship with Santine added and his real-life occupation as a painter explored. However, like the movie, not casting an actor of short stature to accurately portray the historical figure is a missed opportunity.
Elia Lo Tauro’s Santiago is the stage version of the film’s strangely named “Unconscious Argentinean”. However, he plays the same role, even performing the highly-regarded cover of Sting’s Roxanne. I enjoyed Santiago much more than I did in the film. Here, not only does he have more to do (including a love interest), but he even opens Act II with a sexy (and humorous) rendition of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.
While there are many named women throughout the show, who participate in many musical numbers, none have their own story besides Nini, whose story revolves around her love affair with Santiago. This is the only big downside to the show that could have easily been fixed.
With its outstanding performances, lavish costumes, decadent set designs, and high-octane musical numbers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a pure electric and certified spectacular spectacular and worthy of all praise heading its way!
For tickets, see here!