Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love (Moulin Rouge Review)

Jukebox musicals are killing it this year. Yes, I actually just said that. However, I make all exceptions to jukebox musicals when it comes to Moulin Rouge. Like many huge musical fans, I've been waiting for someone to create this musical from the popular 2001 movie version, staring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman and I was so excited to hear it was finally coming to broadway.

This show has been such a fan favorite that they aren't offering rush tickets for it, only lottery tickets and similar to Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, I proceed to lose the lottery every single time. So I decided to see what they had available at the box office three hours before the show on a Saturday night. Luckily, they had one single ticket available for the balcony at $99. As a side note, for anyone looking to get tickets to a show, but still want it to be more affordable, single tickets at the box office have never failed me yet and you don't have to pay the numerous fees attached to buying tickets online.

When you first enter into the theater, you are immediately transformed into an 1800's setting inside the Moulin Rouge and the entire theater has been transformed. The set is gorgeous and I knew that would be a huge selling point throughout the show. Similar to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Moulin Rouge not only had a pre-show soundtrack with music to influence the time period, they also had little seating areas that the stage wraps around that people can sit at to enjoy the show.

About 10-15 minutes before the show starts, members of the ensemble begin to come out to continue the feeling that the audience is actually sitting in the Moulin Rouge in the 1800's. So if you go see the show, make sure you get there early enough to be able to enjoy the pre-show performance, but to also take pictures of the theater, because they do ask you to put your phones away once the cast starts coming out.

If you're not familiar with the story of Moulin Rouge, can not suggest enough about seeing the movie. This movie was one of Nicole Kidman's breakthrough performances and Ewan McGregor is an incredible singer. But for this review, I'll provide a quick summary. In the 1800's of Paris there are two types of people, those who are considered the aristocrats of society and those who are struggling artists, called Bohemians. During this time, the Moulin Rouge is the place for the high society men to be at, but what is unknown to most is that the Moulin Rouge is actually struggling financially. While trying to get a finance through a Duke, Satine, the leading performer of the Moulin Rouge, accidentally mistakes Christian, a Bohemian writer trying to get his show to be performed at the Moulin Rouge, for the Duke. Almost getting caught, they convince the Duke to finance the show and we start the journey of a forbidden love story.

When I went into the theater to see the show, I kept telling myself to go in with low expectations not expecting anything because I feel like I've waited for this moment forever. Just seeing all the promotions for this show, I knew it would be on the more flashy side than a show like Jagged Little Pill or Phantom of the Opera. Act one was definitely the more flashy side of the show. When the curtain went down for intermission, I definitely didn't feel much of a story line yet but more of just setting the tone for the show. Act two moved a lot faster because most of the story line happened in that hour of the show.

Aaron Tveit as the Bohemian writer, Christian is something I believe every Broadway fan can agree on is the dream casting. After being away from the Broadway stage for a few years to do smaller staged concerts, tv roles, and film roles, Broadway is welcoming him back with open arms into the leading role of Christian, almost feeling like he's the unofficial leader of the show. He shows in this performance that he is a true triple threat, even being tossed across the stage by the male ensemble which had everyone speechless. I walked out of that theater believing that this role will earn Aaron Tveit the Tony Nomination for Best Actor.

Karen Olivo performs the role of the leading lady Satine. Now whenever I think of Satine, I always think of Nicole Kidman, but I love how Olivo has made the role her own by making Satine a stronger woman who wants to have an independent life. You can feel the strength of her character through her voice when singing the score. She also shows the weight on her shoulders by feeling like she has to do everything she can to help save the Moulin Rouge while also fighting an illness and falling in love with Christian.  I love how not only did they keep the iconic entrance Satine does coming down from the ceiling on a swing, but she also does some minor acrobats on the swing.

Danny Burnstein as the director of the club, Harold Zidler. You can truly see there's two sides of Zidler that Burnstein wants the audience to see and know. There's the one who puts on an act for the patrons every day by being flamboyant and extravagant with the shows and then there's the other side of him that those close to him only see. You can see that he really wants to get the Moulin Rouge out of financial debt not just for him, but for the people that work for him so they don't go back to the lives they were living before he found them.

Rounding out the principal casts are Tam Mutu as the Duke, Sahr Ngaujah as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Ricky Rojas as Santiago and Robyn Hurder as Nini. I honestly believe that Ricky Rojas and Robyn Hurder stole the show with their fantastic dancing in the opening number of Act Two. I felt the energy coming off of them, and it was one of those moments I always look for in a show that makes me want to go back to the dance studio and get back to my dance training days.

I want to give a huge shoutout to the ensemble. The amount of energy they have to put through all the dancing eight shows a week is incredible and I honestly believe they don't get enough credit. They really set the tone for the show with the opening number with the can-cans and the interaction with the audience. Along with the ensemble members dancing, there are also four ladies that bring the popular "Lady Marmalade" song to life every single show: Robyn Hurder, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Jeigh Madjus and Erika Hunter (a swing in the show on for the role of Arabia in this performance).

Now you know I love to go through the technical side of the show. The sets, designed by Derek McLane, are incredible. I can't even put into words what they were like. It was amazing the different atmospheres created on the stage and how you can tell the difference between each scene and what the tone of it was. I believe they also used projection on the back for some of it, but I could be wrong. The lighting, designed by Justin Townsend, was show stopping, from the bright lights of the Moulin Rouge to the dark lights of the Bohemian side of Paris. I'm honestly amazed at what lighting designers can do for shows and they honestly deserve more recognition, including those that work the lights backstage for every single show.

However, the real star of the technical side of the show was the choreography and costumes. If I had any say, I would say that Sonya Tayeh will win the Tony Award for best choreography. I really haven't seen a show this technical and advanced with their dancing since Sam Pinkleton's choreography in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. And of course Catherine Zuber, a seasoned vet for costume design,  doesn't disappoint with her designs.

For fans of the 2001 movie, you will not be disappointed. I am dying to go back to see it again just to really study the choreography and sets. I'm so excited that my mom wants to see it when she comes up to visit in May. If you can take anything from this show or even this review, just remember there's four things in life to exemplify...

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love.

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