The touring production of ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ has an exclamation point for a reason
As you enter the majestic KeyBank State Theatre on Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio your eyes are immediately drawn to the stage. It is spectacular! A series of nine huge hearts with some trimmed in lights form a three-dimensional tunnel representing the stage of the most famous nightclub of 1899 Paris, France.
In the center of the stage are a series of risers with elevated raised theater boxes positioned on both sides. A gigantic neon sign has been lowered on lines with Moulin Rouge brightly lit in red. Even before the show begins, cast members in various degrees of dress and undress roam the stage peering out at the audience. They are seductive or coy depending on your point of view. Electric sex sizzles in the air. Tis’ an evening out for the adults.
In 2001 the blockbuster film “Moulin Rouge” hit the theaters with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor starring as the doomed star-crossed lovers, winning two Oscars. “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” featured book by John Logan hit Broadway July 25, 2019 only to close due to Covid but was reopened once the theaters were deemed safe and is still running. The show garnered 14 Tony nominations winning 10 (the most for that season) including Best Musical.
The show is what is commonly called a “Jukebox Musical” using a variety of modern musical styles that are shaped specifically to advance the story line. The show begins with a rousing rendition of “Lady Marmalade” with the sexy “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” setting the mood for the evening. From there the song selection includes everything from “Chamma Chamma” from the “China Gate” movie, David Bowie’s version of “Nature Boy” (originally penned by Nat King Cole), Madonna’s “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin”, Elton John’s “Your Song”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the show stopping Tango version of The Police’s “Roxanne”. There are even snippets of various show tunes including “The Hills Are Alive” from “The Sound of Music.”
The touring show has been advertised as an opportunity “...to enter a world of splendor and romance, of eye-popping excess, of glitz, grandeur and glory! A world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows and revel in electrifying enchantment. Pop the champagne and prepare for the spectacular.”
Harold Zidler (Austin Durant) owns the world-famous cabaret in the center of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris but is in financial meltdown. In desperation, he pimps his biggest star, Satine (Courtney Reed) to The Duke of Monroth (Denzel Tsopnang). As these events unfold, Christian (Christian Douglas) arrives in Paris from Lima, Ohio in the hopes of being discovered as a composer of show music.
He meets up and “wows” Bohemian writer Toulouse-Leutrek (Nick Rashad Burroughs) and artist Santiago (Gabe Martinez). The trio becoming fast friends as they all believe in the Bohemian lifestyle of “truth, beauty, freedom and love.” Many generations later this will become the hippy mantra of “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. They soon hatch a plot for Christian to romance Satine in order for them to sell their still unwritten musical show for the cabaret.
As Christian is romancing Satine in her boudoir (with Toulouse and Santiago secretly look on) they are interrupted by Harold and The Duke. The truth comes out as to Christian’s real purpose of being there and he and his two cohorts begin ad libbing a show out of thin air. The Duke decides to back the show but wants total ownership of the cabaret.
As rehearsals begin, Christian and Satine end up falling in love even though she is drawn to the Duke’s wealth and status. As Satine becomes the focus of two suitors she begins to show advanced symptoms of consumption (TB) but is determined to open the show’s first night. On opening night, a distraught Christian (who has loaded two live rounds in the stage pistol) plans to kill Satine and himself in order to end the love triangle.
The show features spectacular dance numbers choreographed by Justine Levine and Matt Stine, intriguing use of pop music (Andrew Graham, Music Director), fabulous costuming (Catherine Zuber with Make-Up by Sarah Cimino and Hair Design by David Brian Brown) and elaborate sets (Derek McLane) that flow seamlessly between scenes. The perfectly matched Lighting Design is by Justin Townsend. Peter Hylenski attempts to tame the Sound Design of the State Theatre and in some cases succeeds but at some points the volume is overwhelming to those close to the stage.
The cast will vary from show to show but do not be alarmed. These are top notch performers of the tenth degree, and each sold out performance will be great. Opening night saw the entire audience leap to their feet at show’s end. Do not be too
quick to leave as there is a series of exciting numbers prior to the curtain call.
Everybody deserves a little “naughty” pleasure in their lives and this show is just the ticket to titillate and arouse the senses. Sit back and enjoy a wild ride of dazzle and just for fun, see how many pop songs you can pick out during the performance. Bring an adult friend and enjoy!
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” will be on stage in the KeyBank State Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio through July 2, 2023. For more information and tickets go to http://playhousesquare.org or call (216) 241-6000.