Will it be as good as the film? Do you have to have seen the film to ‘get it’? Will it translate onto the West End stage? All questions floating around in my head as I sat in my theatre set. Before me was a ravishingly, spectacular set and a massive Moulin Rouge neon sign, bright red facing me and the audience. I look up to my left and there is the front end of a very large grey Elephant towering over the stalls. And to my right a working windmill, with spinning blades. As I settle down, the cast come onto the stage while a repeated sound riff brings the ambience of a Montmartre night club. The audience gather and the cast roam the stage looking glitzy and intense. Then suddenly a young man, Christian (Jamie Muscato) appears on the stage. The music stops and the narration begins and so does the show!
Firstly, a little bit of context – The musical has been adapted from the Baz Luhrmann 2001 Twentieth Century studios film. Some of the songs from the film have been included such as the Love medley, Sparkling Diamonds and Your song from Elton John. But there are lots of new ones that pop into conversations at the drop of a hat. The story is about a Night club, that is on it’s last legs. Quite a few musicals seem to have this similar theme. Harold Zidler (Matt Rixon) is the owner and Satine (Melissa James) is the main singer. Christian has come from America to find fame as a song writer in France and falls head over heels in love with Satine on first sight. He attends one of the shows, with a view to audition one of his songs and therefore get the club to put on his musical. On his arrival to France, he meets up with two struggling artists and frequent visitors to the Moulin Rouge Toulouse-Lautrec (Ian Carlyle) and Antonio (Elia Lo Tauro).
Another frequent visitor to the club and a love interest for Satine is the Duke (Ben Richards). As Christian and the Duke sit either side of the stage watching the performance Harold Tells Satine that the Duke is the one to impress and that he could invest in the club and save it from closing. But as he is looking at the Duke stage right telling her to impress him and get to him invest in the club, she is looking stage left and sees Christian. And so the plot unfolds.
Harold invites the Duke to Satine’s dressing room in the Elephant (Strange place to have a dressing room). But Christian arrives first and as the confusion unfolds Toulouse-Lautrec and Antonio climb into the Satine’s dressing room through a balcony, there as moral support for Christian, to convince Satine to listen to Christian audition his song. But shortly after arrival, Harold comes in with the Duke and it gets evenmore confusing. However Christian and Satine, all team up to say that they are putting on a new show that they want to audition to the Duke and persuade him to invest in the show.
However following a subsequent conversation with Harold. The Duke states that to invest he wants to control the club and what goes on Including Satine. You following this? Harold has no choice but to accept his offer to save the Moulin Rouge.
As the show continues Toulouse-Lautrec becomes the Director, Antonio the Choreographer of an awful play. Over the top in it’s acting and soon artistic differences appear between Toulouse-Latrec and the Duke.
The Duke also finds out that Satine and Christian have become lovers and have been meeting secretly behind the Dukes back. He give Satine an ultimatum end with Christian or he will to end her lovers life. She does so finish it with Christian. And then another twist.
Just before the show is about to have its first performance Satine is struck down with Consumption and has days to live. But she wants Christian’s music to be heard. She battles on, but dies on stage confessing her true love for Christian who holds her in his arms as she passes away.
Time passes by and the widow Christian, along with Toulouse-Lautrec and Antonio end up writing successful plays and helps Harold and saves the Moulin Rouge! That’s it in a nut shell.
I found the staging lavish, classy, in places over the top. The Choreography was sublime. The costumes were stylish and the songs OK in the sense that I could sing along, under my breath of course. Other reviewers seem to not rate it so high. Can’t see why. I enjoyed it for what it was 2 hours of complete escapism.
I enjoyed every minute of the show and so did my fellow audience members. The acting was superb, the singing of Christian was exceptionally impressive. What a voice! Harold Zidler was over the top and I loved his performance. The Duke was class, but was so enjoying himself at the end.
All in all a fantastic night out and I would go back again and again in a heartbeat.
Well done the new cast, musicians and crew. You have fitted in well and have made each performance your own. Long may it run.
If you get a chance to go to London, please do pay a visit to the Moulin Rouge! You will not regret it.
5 stars out of 5 for me! 6 stars if I could.
Reviewer Mark Bilsby