Moulin Rouge: the red windmill turns it on for Sydney

The award-winning "Moulin Rouge The Musical" has finally hit Sydney. Photo: supplied.

Review: Moulin Rogue The Musical, Capitol Theatre, Sydney – Saturday, 4 June, 2022. Reviewed by associate editor and special writer, John Moyle.

★★★★

Finally, the Global Creatures’ production of Moulin Rouge The Musical lands in Sydney and what a landing it is. 

Originally devised by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pierce as the 2001 film, the musical took some seventeen years to reach the stage, undergoing many changes along the way, particularly in regards to the narrative and music.

From the moment that you walk into the magnificent Capitol Theatre you know you are in for a wild ride, but be prepared for the Mad Mouse with its tight curves and swerves rather than a more sedate rollercoaster.

There are no intellectual pretensions here, just a simple concept carried out very intelligently.

Based loosely on La Traviata, Moulin Rouge is a three-handed love triangle between performer and courtesan Satine (Alinta Chidzey), poet Christian (Des Flanagan) and the wicked Duke of Monroth (Andrew Cook).

The setting is Paris during the Belle Epoque period and things aren’t going all that well at the Moulin Rouge, nor for the group of Bohemians who frequent the venue to eek out a living and pursue artistic aspirations and celebrate the ideals of “truth, beauty, freedom and love”.

We find out early on that Satine is gripped with consumption, but she is determined to keep the show going for the sake of her fellow troupe members, and Zidler is only too prepared to exploit this by setting her up with the wealthy Duke in order to finance the next production.

Unaware of Christian’s love for her, in a romantic set-up in the Elephant she mistakes him for the Duke and ignores his impassioned promises of undying love.

From the colours, music and amazing set, the cast of Moulin Rouge The Musical are eager to wow audiences with the show. Video: Moulin Rouge! Musical/Youtube.

Hence the plot is set for what is a well-worn theme of a love triangle that has no shame in plundering all of the clichés, much to the delight of the audience, which on opening night joined in to celebrate the melodrama playing out.

Even the Green Fairy makes an appearance.

The stage production has undergone many changes from the film version, not only in running time but also in the truncation of the actors’ lines, instead letting the songs unfold much of the narrative.

It is the approach to the music that makes Moulin Rouge a radical departure from the traditional jukebox musical in the way it has taken most of the film’s music tracks and added many new songs recorded in the 17 years since the film’s release.

Using mash-ups blending genres and ages that often take a single line from one song and interweave it with longer sections of other tunes, we get a broad selection of popular music from the past fifty years to progress the narrative of the production, including Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, T.Rex, The Police, Madonna, Adele, Cab Calloway and Marilyn Monroe.

Of course, there’s also LaBelle’s great ‘Lady Marmalade’, and the reprises of Elton John’sYour Song’ and the beautifully haunting ‘Come What May’, originally recorded for Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

We are seeing the Australian version of the same production that originally opened in Boston in 2018, directed by Alex Timbers, from the book by John Logan, that went on to play New York City, where it picked up ten awards at the 74th Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

As the lead Satine, Alinta Chidzey has the role of making the audience find sympathy for a prostitute; with her dramatic skills along with her musicality and dancing skills she pulls this off easily.

A musical featuring a wonderfully blended mashup of music and genres, Moulin Rouge is an adventurous ride for audiences to enjoy. Photo: supplied.

Des Flanagan is admirable for deftly avoiding insipidness and is engaging in his role as the lovelorn Christian, while Andrew Cook milks the cruel Duke of Monroth role for all it is worth.

The colour-blind casting of Tim Omaji (Timomatic) as the Montmartre artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec also works well.

A big favourite on the night was Simon Burke as Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler.

Here, Burke gets to let loose the skills he has learnt in over 40 years of theatre and the audience can’t get enough of it.

The second song of act two lifts the production to another level and shows that this is a highly skilled ensemble with great dexterity and fluidity in singing and dancing.

Great attention has also been taken with the colour palette of the show, which moves from slate grey depicting the impoverishment of the Montmartre area to the beautiful pastels of the wealthy Champs-Élysées boulevardiers to the brilliant South American flavoured primaries of the can-can dancers’ skirts.

If you are wanting a traditional jukebox musical experience then be prepared to be shocked – but if a more adventurous ride through melodrama, colour and movement is in order, then this is the musical for you.

Moulin Rouge The Musical continues at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney until Sunday, October 23, 2022. For tickets and further information, visit https://moulinrougemusical.com/australia/tickets-sydney/ .

John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.

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