20th January 2022
By Shaun Tossell
The highly anticipated stage musical adaptation of Baz Lurmann’s Moulin Rouge! has finally opened in the West End.
SO EXCITING! But will it run for 50 years?
The musical, set in Paris during the turn of the 20th century, follows young American poet Christian, who meets and instantly falls in love with courtesan and star of the Moulin Rouge!, Satine.
First things first, the Piccadilly Theatre has been transformed beyond recognition for the arrival of Moulin Rouge! The transformation elicits gasps, as you enter the theatre, where you’re met with an opulent sea of red and gold. The extreme extravagance sets the tone of what’s to follow.
Moulin Rouge! is led by Liisi LaFontaine, starring as Satine, who looks and sounds every bit the Sparkling Diamond. LaFontaine easily brings the cheeky sass and sex appeal, whilst delivering the more dramatic moments with a steely confidence. She is joined by newcomer Jamie Bogyo, who brings a charmingly awkward quality to the role of Christian, and has a beautiful singing voice.
Alas there does seem to be a distinct lack of chemistry between the paring, which does diminish the effect of the love story somewhat.
Clive Carter gives the stand out performance as Moulin Rouge! owner and emcee Harold Zidler. Carter completely channels Jim Broadbent’s wonderful performance from the film and turns it up to 11. He brings a delightfully naughty energy to the role but also disarmed me with the most effecting scenes of the show, when sharing the stage with LaFontaine.
Also of note are Jason Pennycooke as Toulouse-Lautrec, and Elia Lo Tauro as Santiago, who add some great comedic and dramatic moments to the show.
The ensemble are completely fantastic, inhabiting the world of Moulin Rouge! fully, especially when attacking the stage with the sexy and thrilling choreography by Sonya Tayeh.
I also have to mention my favorite moment of the show, the infamous Roxanne number from the film, is vividly brought to life on stage.
The undoubted star of the show is the stunningly beautiful scenic design by Derek McLane. The show transforms at a breakneck pace, seemlessly from the dingy streets of Montmartre, to the opulence of the Moulin Rouge! Atmospheric and gorgeous, there isn’t a better looking show in the West End.
Combined with breathtaking lighting design by Justin Townsend, which is easily some of the best I’ve ever seen.
This goes hand-in-hand with the gloriously beautiful costume design by Catherine Zuber, hair design by David Brian Brown and make-up design by Sarah Cimino. The show looks like it had tons of money thrown at it and you see all of it on stage.
Unfortunately we come to the weakest aspect of the show, the book by Oscar winner John Logan, which just doesn’t give us the same emotional depth which was present in the film.
The stage musical also falters where the film excelled, which is the clever inclusion of well-known pop hits into musical numbers. The show is over stuffed with more than 70 songs, many of which don’t add anything to the story and are reduced to one-line cameos. Entertaining at first but unintentionally elicits laughter to the detriment of the more dramatic moments in the show.
Moulin Rouge! for all its faults, is a damn good time at the theatre. An all-out assault on the senses, get swept away in the sparkling excess. A complete visual feast that really is spectacular, spectacular! ! !
Moulin Rouge! is now playing at the Piccadilly Theatre.
Tickets and more info – https://www.moulinrougemusical.co.uk/
Photo credits – Johan Persson & Matt Crockett