SALT LAKE CITY – The Broadway Across America North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical invites SLC audiences into the immersive world of the infamous Parisian nightclub, the Moulin Rouge. As the winner of ten Tony Awards in 2021, including Best Musical, the show is unique in that it plays much like a cabaret revue, with burlesque aspects significantly apparent. Directed by Alex Timbers and Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, I felt immediately welcomed as I entered the theatre, being drawn into the entertainment and party like atmosphere taking place on stage.
With a book by John Logan, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is based on the 2001 motion picture written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and directed by Baz Luhrmann. The musical follows Christian, played by Conor Ryan, a poor Bohemian poet in 1890s Paris who falls desperately in love with Satine, played by Courtney Reed, a beautiful courtesan and nightclub star of the Moulin Rouge, owned by the exuberant Harold Zidler, played by Austin Durant. Christian is writing a show to be performed at the Moulin Rouge, which will star Satine as the lead character. As the performers of the Moulin Rouge rehearse and prepare for opening night, Satine is coveted by the jealous Duke of Monroth, played by David Harris, and struggles with her health, foiling her transcendent relationship with Christian.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a jukebox musical of sorts, featuring pre-written pop songs and representing over 160 years of music. The musical retains many of the iconic songs from the film, as well as new and more contemporary additions, encompassing 70 songs credited to 160 songwriters. With music direction from Andrew Graham, the music is largely energetic and powerful, providing a fast pace and vitality to the musical. While I did not think that all the song additions aided in the plot or perfectly fit the tone, such as Katy Perry’s “Firework,” they were fun numbers that allowed the actors to showcase their talents, and for the most part all highlighted the bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom, and love.
As Satine, Reed is commanding, obviously talented, and exudes a strength that is envious. At the same time, she balances this demeanor with a softness that makes Satine relatable and a tragic figure. As Satine’s body is taken over by consumption, Reed displays more vulnerability, as well as more of a resolve to take over her own life and her happiness, a transition I found genuine and affecting. I appreciated Reed’s sultry, resonant voice and mature portrayal, causing her character to be the perfect balance of sensuality and intrigue.
Ryan was a bit over the top for my taste playing the hopeless romantic, Christian, making him harder to connect to and made me doubt his chemistry with Satine. He shined, however, with his singing and magnificent voice. I especially appreciated moments where slight echo effects (sound design by Peter Hylenski) were used to create a very crisp and ethereal sound, from both Ryan and Reed. The romantic duets between the two sounded lovely. Ultimately, I was left wanting more from the lover’s tragic story, but they each played their parts well and with the vocal centric nature of the show, I was satisfied.
The design elements in this production are nothing short of extravagant, creating a grandeur and decadent spectacle. Derek McLane’s luxurious and extremely ornate scenic design is immediately noticeable, featuring heart shaped portals reminiscent of the film. Rich red fabrics, neon signs, sparkly diamonds, and lightbulbs everywhere added to the ambiance. Lighting design by Justin Townsend accompanied and accentuated the scenic design perfectly, using deep romantic hues and effects to create the illusion of stars and sparkles. I also appreciated the moving bright lights at the beginning to prepare me for the fun and enticing evening ahead, as well as when the audience was lit more than would be typical to create a more immersive cabaret environment.
The costume design by Catherine Zuber was equally incredible. The repeated theme of red and black lingerie and fabrics was aesthetically appealing and enticing, attributing to the seductive, fantastical atmosphere. I felt the costumes (along with the hair design by David Brian Brown and makeup design by Sarah Cimino) excelled at honoring the style and culture of the setting, while also providing a more modern interpretation. I was also impressed with the high functionality of the beautiful and complex costumes for such a high energy and movement heavy show. The actors never seemed restricted by their costumes. Additionally, I always like an on-stage costume change.
As the confetti rained down on me at the conclusion of the paradox that is Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a heart-rending love story as well as a lively celebration, I was filled with hope. The hope of overcoming sorrow, artistic revolution, liberation, and endearing love. Paired with the awe-inspiring spectacle, enthusiastic music, and incredible vocals, Moulin Rouge! The Musical was a great night out at the theatre and a great success.