Review: Moulin Rouge! The Musical Is Pure Decadence

Moulin Rouge Seattle's Paramount

Harper Miles, Libby Lloyd, Nicci Claspell and Andres Quintero in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, (photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)

Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Paramount Theatre
Through December 31, 2022 (get tickets and more info here)

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is yet another screen-to-stage adaption of a movie musical. Unlike many of its predecessors, Moulin Rouge lives up to (if not excels beyond) its origins and maintains the full flash, energy and pop-music of the film. Currently playing at the Paramount Theatre, this show is the perfect holiday spectacular production that should be enjoyed!

As the audience enters, they are greeted by a glaring neon title of a seedy nightclub, in Paris, in the late 19th Century, the Moulin Rouge! While the crowd is settling into the ambience, several players, in scantily dressed outfits, come out and pose on the stage. It is clear that we are in for a night of forbidden pleasures and fantastical desires. We are finally greeted by Harold Zidler, the M.C. of the show. He is part pimp, part conniver and fulltime showman. With great flair he brings on the performers and welcomes us to the Moulin Rouge. We are also introduced to Christian, an American trying to find himself in Paris. On his first day, Christian meets two Bohemians; an Argentine gigolo and the artist impresario, Toulouse-Lautrec. They try to write a new musical for the Moulin Rouge, with the hopes that the nightclub’s star, Satine, will champion their work. The trio sets off for the nightclub. Satine is being pimped to The Duke of Monroth, an affluent man of wealth and dubious character, so that the Moulin Rouge may win him as a patron, and stay open. After a series of misunderstandings, Satine assumes Christian is The Duke, and when the doomed couple meet, they fall in love. The star-crossed lovers must keep their passion secret from The Duke, who holds more than just Satine’s career in his hands.

The Ensemble of the show is as important as any of the leads. Their presence, as they parade, primp and pose in the background, all add a sensuality to the atmosphere. Whether it is a wry smile, a self-confident strut, or an incredible dance number, this cast embraces the erotic underbelly that is needed for a nightclub of this caliber; it is akin to the Kit Kat Club, but gilded in fool’s gold.

Austin Durant plays the M.C. Harold Zidler. He brings an underhanded cunningness to the jester- showman persona of the evening’s host. Mr. Durant adds the right amount of hustler to Zidler’s game, while enjoying the seedy world around him. His energy exudes with an infectious explosion, and we are easily swept into his charm all-the-while knowing our wallets are being stolen.

Denzel Tsopnang (understudy) played The Duke of Monroth. Mr. Tsopnang breathes a new life – apart from the film – into this character. He is not the blind, laughable buffoon as played for laughs in the movie. Instead, Mr. Tsopnang brings a more menacing, darker side to The Duke. When he makes a threat, we believe he will follow through.

André Ward plays Toulouse-Lautrec, the only real-life character (aside from the Moulin Rouge itself) to be represented. Mr. Ward gives the great artist a wonderful stage presence. Lautrec is the persona of Bohemia itself; an artist of great talent who was champion of Paris’ underbelly, and introduced them to Society through his paintings. Mr. Ward does not disappoint bringing this ‘larger-than-life’ character to full capacity on the stage.

Andrew Brewer (understudy) played Christian, the love-struck, penniless writer trying to find himself in Bohemia. Mr. Brewer was very good as the young ingénue. He shows the innocent beginning of the character’s journey, and the disillusions met on the way through his love of Satine. His voice is strong and his stage presence is perfect for the star-crossed lover.

Moulin Rouge

Courtney Reed and Conor Ryan in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, (photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)

Courtney Reed plays ‘The Sparkling Diamond’ Satine. Ms. Reed has a great voice, and she can easily belt out the songs with good appeal. Her stage presence is good in almost every situation, except when she is performing as ‘The Sparkling Diamond’. Ms. Reed has a great voice (for Broadway) and a wonderful stage presence (for Broadway), but there is something that lacks when trying to be a bawdy, erotic woman in seedy Burlesque. She’s simply too good to be part of that seedy culture. Like Liza as Sally Bowles, if a woman possessed that talent, she wouldn’t be wasting time in that sleezy nightclub. When Ms. Reed shows the pain of being torn between true love, and love that is purchased, her emotional presentation sweeps us up along with her. She shines like a diamond in every aspect, except when she is supposed to be playing cubic zirconia.

The real stars of this musical spectacular belong in two camps; Choreographer Sonya Tayeh, and musical Supervisor/Arranger Justin Levine. The dancing in this show lives up to any reputation you can imagine. It does not disappoint. From the energetic Can-Can, to group numbers, and sensual tango, the dancing is a thing unto itself. It is as much a living entity as any other performer on the stage. The music is the pulse and heartbeat of this show. Like the film, the stage production uses popular music. The music is like an Ipod Shuffle (remember those?). It can sample songs, mashing them together into perfect synchronizations. This musical does the same. They use many from the movie and add in new mash-ups as well. Some songs are blended together while others are in their longer forms. Example: A sensual tango is erotically danced while the couple sings Bad Romance. (Don’t worry, the iconic Roxanne sequence is also included in the show). While changes have been made for the stage, none are blatant in a negative way.

Moulin Rouge is more than just a stage adaptation of a screen favorite. It is a spectacle all onto itself. It retains all the flash, vibe, verve, jolt and most of the music from the original film. The stage production adds a new layer of sensuality, gender fluidity, and songs/dances that will titillate any audience member. For fans of the movie; open your mind to a few, and enjoyable, changes. For those that have not experienced the gritty glitz of the Moulin Rouge, welcome.

Moulin Rouge opened on Broadway July 25, 2019, and continues to run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2020 and won 10 including Best Musical, Best Choreography, and Best Performances By Leading & Featured Actors in a Musical – respectively Aaron Tveit (Christian) and Danny Burstein (Zidler). Moulin Rouge, the Musical is based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film by the same name.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Paramount Theatre
Through December 31, 2022 (get tickets and more info here)

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Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at:

1 Reply to “Review: Moulin Rouge! The Musical Is Pure Decadence”

  1. Alexandra Hershberger says:

    Loved Eric’s review, unsurprisingly!

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