Polished performances, magnificent mashups, elegant and evocative sets, colourful and creative costumes, and charismatic choreography are the highlights of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Set at the turn of the 20th century, Christian (Des Flanagan) is a young, penniless British singer songwriter who has just arrived in Paris and goes straight to Montemarte. There he chances upon two artistes – Toulouse-Lautrec (Tim Omaji) and Santiago (Ryan Gonzalez) – who are part of the Bohemian movement.
They are looking to compose a new play with songs in it, but are having trouble with the lyrics. Christian helps them out. In return, they encourage him to visit the Moulin Rouge cabaret – birthplace of the modern form of can-can. There they want Christian to sweet talk leading lady Santine (Alinta Chidzey) – a former courtesan – into encouraging impresario Harold Zidler (Simon Burke) to stage their show.
Only what they don’t realise is that Zidler is in serious debt and the club is on the cusp of closing. To that end, Zidler hopes to call upon wealthy but arrogant The Duke (Andrew Cook) to bail them out. The lure Zidler is using is Santine. The moment they see her, Christian and The Duke are both smitten, only The Duke wants Santine all to himself and he is used to getting his way … or else.
With a book by John Logan, musical supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine and choreography by Sonya Tayeh, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is skilfully directed by Alex Timbers. It is based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie musical Moulin Rouge!, which was nominated for Best Picture at the 2002 Oscars. In September 2021, Moulin Rouge! The Musical won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, from 14 nominations, making it the biggest winner at this year’s ceremony.
It features no less than 75 songs, or snippets thereof. That really is something. Production design and lighting are exemplary. Among the spectacular scenery and props, an iconic red windmill and towering blue elephant are situated stage left and right respectively and they make quite the impression.
There is so much great jukebox music in this show, alongside heavy lashings of humour and pathos. Vocally, Des Flanagan is the knockout. He has a most melodic voice, which he uses to full effect. Alinta Chidzey is captivating from when she is lowered onto the stage in a “look at me” entrance, confident and assured in her stagecraft.
Simon Burke turns on the affectations as a spruiker, giddying up the audience and immediately winning us over. Appropriately kitted out in black, Andrew Cook has a big voice and a pantomime swagger in his representation of the villain. I also appreciated the depth that Tim Omaji brought to his role as Toulouse-Lautrec.
My favourite scenes are the serenading duet between the two leads in Act I and the first after interval. That is when Ryan Gonzalez and Samantha Dodemaide – the latter as the no nonsense performer Nini – really come into their own in an all singing, all dancing number that “explodes” on stage, energy personified.
In fact, there is a great deal of dynamism and drive throughout the entirely of this lavish production. Moulin Rouge! The Musical is mighty fine escapist entertainment, which will put a pep in your step and a smile on your dial as we celebrate coming out of lockdown. I couldn’t think of a better way to do so. It is playing at The Regent Theatre in Melbourne, with tickets available through Ticketmaster.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Chicago – theatre review
- The Bodyguard Musical – Melbourne – theatre review
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.