Decadent, indulgent, luscious and visually stunning are what you think, as you enter Moulin Rouge! – The Musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. This new musical is a feast to the eyes, thanks to scenic designer Derek McLane. The pre show has sexily clad showgirls and the men who lust after them, as we get a taste of Catherine Zuber’s succulent, delectable costumes. Visions of the Baz Lehman film greet us as the signature elephant appears from one side and the Parisian nightclub’s iconic windmill lights up on the other. Chandeliers hang above our head and corseted lady sword-swallowers thrill and delight.
Opening up the show is “Lady Marmalade,” sung by Jacqueline B. Arnold as La Chocolat, Robyn Hurder as Nini, Holly James as Arabia and Jeigh Madjus as Baby Doll, as they get the audience going.
Pulsating in visions of red, black and gold, Justin Townsend’s moody lighting allows the fabulous Danny Burstein to state; “Hello, chickens! Yes, it’s me. Your own beloved Harold Zidler. Welcome, you gorgeous collection of bohemians and aristocrats, boulevardiers and mademoiselles welcome to the Moulin Rouge.”
The energy of the audience is intoxicating, as Christian (Aaron Tveit) enters with Toulouse-Lautrec (Sahr Ngaujah) and the great tango dancer Santiago (Ricky Rojas). Christian, now a songwriter, is implored to meet Satine (Karen Olivo), who enters with a mash up of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”; “Material Girl,” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Christian is smitten. Going to her dressing room to persuade her to recommend Lautrec ‘s show, Santine mistakes Christian for the Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu). When the Duke does arrive, Satine must decide between saving the night club or L’amor. The shows main premise is truth, beauty and freedom and above all things, love are like oxygen.
70 songs make up the plot, that book writer John Logan fails to give us. “Because We Can,” “I Don’t Want to Wait,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and more are cut to shreds, while “I Will Always Love You,” “Your Song” and “Shut Up and Dance,” are given much longer renditions. “Come What May” the original song from the film and “Nature Boy” are still intact. The sound design by Peter Hylenski, is sometimes fuzzy and it takes a team to produce this amount of music. Music producer, Matt Stine, music director, Cian McCarthy, music coordinator, Michael Aarons and co-orchestrators Katie Kresek, The wonderful Charlie Rosen and Matt Stein.
Alex Timbers, directs this with an ADD sensibility, as you never know where to look. He does manage to get real emotion out of his characters, however the ending lacks a climax, as Satine’s death happens in an instant.
The cast is all extremely talented. Karen Olivo, is sexy, sings gloriously, especially in the heartbreaking “Firework,” but I never saw her as the heartless courtesan, who was dying from consumption. She does however make Mr. Logan’s script more palatable.
Aaron Tveit is the perfect lovestruck poet, who loves unconditionally and immediately. He is a true leading man with vocal chops that make “The Sound of Music” sound glorious and every other snippet of song he sings heartbreakingly infused with longing.
Mr Ngaujah and Mr. Rojas are the perfect companions. Mr. Rojas almost steals the show with the opening of the second act. First with Ms. Hurder in “Bad Romance” and then as the choreographer in “Tainted Love,” “Seven Nation Army,” “Toxic” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Mr Mutu is extremely handsome with vocals that warm the heart. His part seems badly written. Mutu’s character is sexy, powerful and extremely rich. Granted he is controlling and wants Satine’s heart and soul, but I never saw him as a villain, so the contrast of the musical and the film lies here. When Satine is warned that he is dangerous, I found it hard to believe.
It goes without saying the Danny Burstein is the perfect showman for his role as impresario, bringing to mind a David Merrick.
The choreography is out of this world. Erotic, vibrating with a surge of electricity and tension that explodes. Sonya Tayeh evokes a charge that is felt throughout the theatre. The second act opening and the Argentinian tango, will have you cheering thanks to exquisite dancing by Jacqueline B. Arnold, Olutayo Bosede, Kyle Brown, Sam J. Cahn, Max Clayton, Aaron C. Finley, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Bahiyah Hibah, Ericka Hunter, Holly James, Reed Luplau, Jeigh Madjus, Morgan Marcell, Brandt Martinez, Jodi McFadden, Kevyn Morrow, Fred Odgaard, Khori Michelle Petinaud, and Benjamin Rivera.
Moulin Rouge! – The Musical will overwhelm your senses, but you will leave entertained and feeling you got your money’s worth. For after all we are a material world and I expect this show to run for a long time.
Moulin Rouge! – The Musical: Al Hirschfeld Theatre