Ok, so you might have heard about the infamously high ticket prices and mostly sold-out shows in regards to this year’s “Moulin Rouge” in London. Looking at the seat availability, I was also thinking, is it really worth it? The cheapest tickets were around the £50 mark. But then, let me just explain to you what the show looks like by sharing with you my idea of the show’s humble production beginning.
Moulin Rouge the Musical – did it start like this?
Here’s how I imagine the creative process behind this play (and mind me, it’s just my crazy imagination, but it’s going to let you better understand what this show is about):
Producers, directors, and creatives sit in a room.
-“Ok guys, this is the iconic “Moulin Rouge”. We’ve got huge shoes to fill since everyone is familiar with Baz Luhrmann’s movie already. So here’s what we are going to do. Take all the ideas you’ve got: the most ridiculous, indulgent, sexy ideas you’ve got. And then multiply them by 10.
And whatever budget you have in mind, I’m also going to multiply it by 10. Do you think all you need is 1 curtain in a theatre? Heck, let’s do 4! Do you think stage design can be breathtaking? Nah, let’s also transform the whole auditorium, why not! Oh and let’s buy the rights to some good pop bangers and include them too. Cost is not an issue.”
(you get what I mean – the scale of “Moulin Rouge” is whatever you’ve seen in musical theatre, but louder, richer and grander)
Give me more (pop songs)… But maybe it’s enough?
It’d a jukebox musical, but updated to feature not just the Moulin Rouge classics (“Roxanne”, “Lady Marmalade” etc), but also songs from the 2010s: Katy Perry. Pink, SIA, and others. And now, again, the concept of “we need EVERYTHING, all at once” can be overwhelming. Some of the songs are mash-ups of famous pop hits.
This would be great but the melody tends to change every 5 seconds, just to fit more and more tunes in one. This was especially annoying to me in act 1 when the audience is just settling in, getting an introduction to the characters, and the process is much slower because of the constant pop songs thrown into the dialogues constantly. I had a feeling of being overwhelmed, and at certain moments it was just too much.
There’s only one scene in which the “pop overdose” is used to perfection: the song “Elephant Love Medley”. The main characters – Satine and Christian- converse about love using the most famous quotes from songs, and with a little sarcasm and wit, it just really works.
Truth Beauty Freedom Love
The whole experience feels immersive from the moment you enter the auditorium. The whole Piccadilly Theatre has been transformed into a top Parisian cabaret. Starting with a moving mill wheel, a huge elephant, tonnes of red velvet, and crystal chandeliers – it’s marvelous. It took me good 10 minutes just to take photos and stare around.
On top of that, even before the show starts, the ensemble slowly walks on the stage, flirting with the audience and showcasing their fabulous costumes (and bodies). It all feels like a planned-to-perfection piece of theatre.
The play itself is a wild ride. The stage design changes so often, that it feels like every conversation takes place somewhere – from a bohemian street to a fancy room inside an Elephant and the interior of Moulin Rouge itself. There are hundreds of costumes, and some of them have to withstand hardcore dancing or swinging in the air. This is the definition of over-the-top!
The story, is in essence, a love story. And that’s when I have a little bit of an issue. Satine (Liisi LaFontaine) and Christian (Jamie Bogyo) shine when they’re doing solo numbers and their voices sound decent in harmony, but I just haven’t felt much chemistry between them. It could be the script (the whole “we meet and are suddenly in love” feels flat, seems like there’s quite a piece of history missing out), but it is less believable to see those 2 people falling in love than I would hope for. I ended up focusing my attention on everything else but the love part, just because it felt so thin and artificial.
So I will just focus on the solo performances instead.
LaFontaine makes one of the best entrances in musical theatre history (her “Diamonds are forever” mashup is already iconic). As the play continues, she crafts a story of a girl coming from a poor home, that just wants to get to that life comfort. She’s able to get the audience to feel sympathy for her instantly while dazzling as the diva that she is.
Bogyo is a slightly awkward Christian, who kind of reminded me of the Aladin from the new Disney real-life action movie. He’s keen to serve his queen and doesn’t care about getting the spotlight on himself. But whoa, he’s got quite the voice (especially well-showcased in the 2nd act).
My favourite has to be Santiago (Elia Lo Tauro) – the comic relief with fabulous tango skills and a deep tone of voice. Couldn’t take my eyes off him!
Come What May
This is a show to see as a treat. It’s best watched on the weekend, with a glass of chilled champagne at hand, and with a pre-show cocktail to put you in the mood. You will go there to get amazed, and indeed you will be feeling overwhelmed by the richness dripping from each piece of this production. If you’re lucky and tipsy enough, maybe you will be able to feel the chemistry between the leads on stage – I guess I haven’t had enough bubbles on that day.
Moulin Rouge at Piccadilly Theatre
Book – John Logan
Director – Alex Timbers
Choreographer- Sonya Tayeh
Elia Lo Tauro
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