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It’s been nearly two decades since Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! brought the movie-musical genre back into the spotlight winning two Oscars, three Golden Globes, three BAFTAs, as well as spawning a Billboard Hot 100-topping single and multi-platinum album. Now, the hit musical is back, revamped for stage in a glitzy new production at the Al Hirschfield Theatre. It opened late July, and has already become Broadway’s number-three musical for weekly grosses, behind juggernauts Hamilton and The Lion King.
The Knick team went to see what the fuss was about. Here’s what we loved about Moulin Rouge! on Broadway.
Upon entering the theater, audiences find themselves transported to a Parisian burlesque show—all done in red velvet with gold filigree. Of course, there’s an elephant popping out of one balcony and a windmill out of another. Scantily clad dancers prance and pout onstage, backlit by an electric Moulin Rouge sign. It’s opulent. It’s in your face. And it’s a perfect welcome to the next few hours of spectacle.
Everyone in the audience seemed to have known the movie extremely well. So when Karen Olivo, as the doomed courtesan Satine, sings “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” as she descends from the rafters, much like Nicole Kidman does in the film, people get excited. Likewise when the dreamy-voiced Aaron Tveit sings the title number from The Sound of Music. Throughout the show, audiences lean on the edge of their seat ready for their next favorite part, and there are many.
This Moulin Rouge has a few new tricks up its sleeves, mostly in the form of 20 years’ worth of extra songs to pull from. Katy Perry, Adele, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Walk the Moon, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna are new to the soundtrack, usually as just a few lines, but sometimes, as with Perry’s “Firework,” as a full-on ballad. Like the film, the hodgepodge works.
The stage version of Moulin Rouge relies mostly on its film predecessor, but the characters get a deeper study. Olivo’s Satine is more independent, and knows her own self-worth. Tveit’s Christian is American, and ever-so-slightly less naive than in the film, understanding full well that Satine must sleep with other men. Other changes: the Duke (played by Tam Mutu) is hunkier; Harold Zidler (a hilarious Danny Burstein) is more caring (and more desperate), Toulouse Lautrec (Sahr Ngaujah) has a back-story with Satine, and Nini (Robyn Hurder), subject of the iconic tango number, has a heart.
Seeing Moulin Rouge is not a passive experience. There’s a lot to focus on, from the glamorous set, over-the-top costumes, and hypnotic dancing. Throw in a tragic love story (it’s a retelling of La Traviata) set in Belle Epoque Paris, and you’ve got yourself an insanely engaging night of theater.
Head over to The Knick, just a few blocks away, for rooftop drinks atop Times Square at St. Cloud.
Looking for the right show to see? Let The Knick be your guide. Check out our reviews of some of Broadways biggest current hits, like Hadestown, Hamilton, Frozen, Come from Away, Mean Girls, and more.