Thursday, October 3, 2019

Moulin Rouge (Broadway)

♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

American songwriter Christian (Aaron Tveit) moves to Paris to join the Bohemian revolution and hone his art, but instead finds an unlikely family in playwright Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Sahr Ngaujah) and narcoleptic Argentinean Santiago (Ricky Rojas). The trio of artists head to the Moulin Rouge to propose a new play, making the cabaret’s star Satine (Karen Olivo) believe that Christian is the Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu) who she needs to seduce for financial backing of the now almost bankrupt theater. Sparks fly and the two fall in love despite clear warning from the Duke that he owns everything there is to the club, including her. With his investment, they come up with a play about two doomed lovers who can’t be together, mirroring their real-life setup. With the harsh reality of life quickly catching up with them, can they really afford to uphold the values of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love?

The very first time I ever saw Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece at the cinema in 2002, I was mesmerized and just couldn’t help but feel that this material was tailor-made for the Great White Way. And I know I wasn’t the only one. It’s theatrical and, to quote the film itself, spectacular spectacular! That it took almost two decades for it to make it to Broadway is an enigma in itself. Yet here we are, and they couldn’t have adapted it any better. If you plan on seeing this, do so now while it’s fresh and hot. Once the crowd catches on and the Tonys come rushing in, the ticket prices will defo shoot up.

If you ever wondered what can possibly outshine a shimmering star-studded corset onstage, well the answer is right here. Karen Olivo’s pipes. When you have a duo like Olivo and Tveit, even the most saccharine pop songs from the likes of Katy Perry just end up sounding Tony Award worthy. The discography is updated to accommodate modern titles. While the concept seems risky on paper, it eventually pays off. Hearing the likes of Royals, Rolling in the Deep, and Chandelier, as well as various pop hits from different decades just proves how flexible this show can be. It’s here to stay!

There are songs from the film that did not make it to the onstage rendition, One Day I’ll Fly Away and Hindi Sad Diamonds among them. Lest we forget, Luhrmann’s musical only had one original song: Come What May, which gets the tribute it deserves here. The songs from the movie are moved around a bit while some are tweaked to form mash ups with other pop songs that came out after the film. Who knew that a mash-up of Bad Romance, Toxic, and the Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams can be such a roaring second half opener?

And then you have the production design. They totally transformed the Al Hirschfeld Theater, coloring it rouge with velvet drapes hanging all around. Installing the iconic red windmill on the left side of the stage and that gigantic elephant on the right. You’re not watching Moulin Rouge, you ARE in the Moulin Rouge. If you buy the most expensive ticket, you sit at the VIP section in front made to look like you were at the famed cabaret itself, right by the stage where all the action is.

Suffice it to say that a material like Moulin Rouge, with a production so grandiose and all that spectacle, is truly meant to be a Broadway mainstay. It is over the top yet appropriately so and it’s the type of jukebox musical that makes you want to get up and dance, receiving a roaring round of applause from an enthralled audience with every song and dance number. While the plot and storyline do run thin, everything you see and hear is more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. Spectacular spectacular indeed!

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