Moulin Rouge at The Piccadilly Theatre
Moulin Rouge is possibly my favourite film of all time and since I heard about its release on Broadway I became low key obsessed with the cast recording. Fast forward a few years and when it was announced that it was finally coming to the West End I knew I had to go. Unfortunately Covid delayed my trip but I finally made to the Moulin Rouge itself.
For the uninitiated few, Moulin Rouge the Musical follows the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine and a penniless writer Christian, who fall in love following a confusion over Christian’s identity. The romance is strictly forbidden as in order to keep the Moulin Rouge from going under Harold Zidler, the Moulin Rouge’s owner, introduces Satine to the Duke and he is determined to keep Satine for himself.
There is no denying that Moulin Rouge is a spectacle. From the moment you enter the auditorium you are immersed into this world. The pre-show set is huge and you can’t help but marvel at the sheer scale of it. This is all enhanced when the performers enter the stage early and begin to reel you into their world further. This theme is continued throughout the show and I learnt that Moulin Rouge is at its best when it is doing huge and epic.
The ensemble dance numbers are a prime example of this, opening the show with Lady Marmalade is the perfect way to kick the show off, unapologetic and embracing diversity in all its guises it was wonderful. So to was ‘Backstage Romance’ which fixtured huge hits such as Bad Romance, Toxic, Sweet Dreams (are Mande of These) and El Tango de Roxanne in Act 2. These were both numbers where attitude, sass and huge ensemble numbers were the focus and the energy sweeps the whole audience up into a frenzy. The choreography by Sonya Tayeh was perfect for this show and the cast delivered the dance flawlessly.
It is maybe due to the fact that these numbers are such a big high that the quieter moments when the plot actually develops, especially those between Christian (understudy Adam Gillian) and Satine (Liisi LaFontaine) failed to work as well. The book didn’t really give them time to develop a connection or even a way for Satine to connect with the audience and the chemistry between Satine and Christian failed to sizzle. This was disappointing, as by the end of the show I din’t really care that Satine was dying, I was more excited to see a big production number. The same held true with the friendship between Christian, Tolouse and Santiago which seemed to form out of nowhere and whilst they had funny moments together such as So Exciting their friendship failed to convince. This is no reflection on the performers abilities and indeed they all have wonderful voices but more commentary that what sometimes can work well on screen doesn’t translate so well to the stage, where subtle glances and smouldering looks can be easily missed.
As the success of the musical seems to lie at more with the visual than the emotional it was no surprise that the costumes by Catherine Zuber were a wonder to behold, with everything from the can can skirts to the huge variety of corsets on display through to the pastel aristocratic costumes that fleeting appeal but leave a lasting impression. As mentioned the set, designed by Derek McLane gives a big first impression but it continues to wow throughout the show and I was as awestruck at the end of the show by it than I was the moment I first sat down.
The songs themselves have been updated from the movie and include numbers such as Bad Romance, Shut Up and Raise Your Glass and Firework and I really enjoyed the updates, although die hard fans need not worry, the classics such as Your Song, El Tango De Roxanne and Come What May still feature. This mixture of blending the new with the old ensured that you were kept on your toes, seeing if you could work out the next huge hit within a few bars of it starting.
Moulin Rouge is a show that with visually dazzle with stunning choreography, set and costumes along with a fun score but one that will leave you emotionally cold due to lack of character development and relationships that fail to sizzle.
Moulin Rouge is on at The Piccadilly Theatre. You can find out more and book tickets here.