Based on Baz Luhrmann’s critically acclaimed 2001 film, the highly anticipated Moulin Rouge! has finally hit the West End following its hugely successful Broadway debut in 2019.
Directed by Alex Timbers, the musical tells the story of Christian, a young writer who moves to Pairs’ Montmartre quarter to join the Bohemian movement and falls in love with Satine, the illustrious headline act at the Moulin Rouge cabaret club, and the villainous Duke of Monroth, who wants Satine for himself.
The Piccadilly Theatre has been completely transformed to bring Luhrmann’s dreamy world of glitz and glamour to life. From the neon signs shining outside to the red lights decorating the theatre and stage, Justine Townsend’s incredible lighting design truly transports you to the wild Parisian nightclub. Dereck McLane’s set was equally as impressive, sensational and over the top, the stage was decked out in red velvet and silks with flourishes of gold. The nightclub’s iconic windmill spins in the corner whilst an oversized elephant looms over the audience below, hinting at the spectacle that was to come.
Underneath the lavish decorations and dramatic lighting, the plot felt a little weaker compared to the awe-inspiring staging. Jamie Bogyo was awkward, yet loveable as the wide-eyed Christian, whilst Liisi LaFontaine shined as the seductive yet vulnerable Satine. They played off each other well especially in their duet ‘Crazy Rolling’, a mashup of Gnarls Barkley and Lady Gaga, it was a real highlight. Bogyo also delivered an emotional rendition of the film’s only original song ‘Come What May’, it felt less raw than Ewan McGregor’s version, but powerful nonetheless. Clive Carter commanded the stage as Harold Zidler, Moulin Rouge’s enchanting MC. He expertly channels Jim Broadbent’s original portrayal with some sassier humour that was enjoyable to watch.
The standout performance, however, came from Jason Pennycooke. As revolutionary artist Toulouse-Lautrec, Pennycooke lit up the stage with his quick wit and brilliant vocals.
The music, apart from a few songs from the film, is given a modern pop makeover, with the likes of Lorde, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, and Regina Spektor all making an appearance. Boygo and LaFontaine’s ‘Elephant Love Melody’ was especially chaotic, incorporating an impressive number of love songs in a matter of minutes, emulating the madness of the show.
From start to finish, the ensemble was outstanding and embodied the seductiveness and mystery of the cabaret performers in the film. Sonya Tayeh’s high-energy choreography alongside Catherine Zuber’s colourful costumes were a fitting tribute to Luhrmann’s vision, from the opening can-can dance sequence to ‘Lady Marmalade’ to ’Backstage Romance’, a tango-inspired medley of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, the ensemble certainly brought the heat with their undeniable talent.
For those who enjoy a multi-faceted and detailed plot, this show may not be for you, but for those who have missed the incredible spectacle of live performance, Moulin Rouge! meets the mark in every way possible. This show is the perfect evening of escapism that we could all do with right now.
Moulin Rouge! is currently showing at the Piccadilly Theatre, tickets can be purchased here: https://www.moulinrougemusical.co.uk/
Reviewer: Gemma Prince
Reviewed: 20th January 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★