Baz Luhrmann's epic and tragic "Moulin Rouge" has maintained a spot on my list of favorite films for quite some time. When I learned that a stage production was being produced, I was ecstatic. I had been hoping for a stage version for years! I just traveled to Boston to see the pre-Broadway production for myself. I had no idea that I was about to completely immerse myself in an extravagant theatrical experience that could only be appropriate for a show such as "Moulin Rouge."
When I walked into the historic Emerson Colonial theatre, I realized that I hadn't thought too much about what to expect from the show. I was hoping that the production would maintain the integrity of the film, but I just knew that the acting quality was going to be exceptional. I already knew that Aaron Tveit (Christian) and Karen Olivo (Satine) are masters of their craft, and they did not disappoint. Danny Burstein (Harold Zidler), Sahr Ngaujah (Toulouse-Lautrec), Tam Mutu (the Duke), Ricky Rojas (Santiago), Robyn Hurder (Nini), and the rest of the cast bring a life and energy to the show, unlike anything I'd ever seen. Sonya Tayeh's choreography is also a sight to behold and a highlight of the production- it's tasteful, sexy, in-your-face, and graceful all at the same time.
Tveit portrays Christian with all the wonder, hope, purity, sensitivity, and passion that you hope the character will have. Audiences will certainly fall in love with Tveit's Christian who embodies the ideals of freedom, beauty, truth, and love without being overdramatic. Olivo's Satine is nothing short of a powerhouse. Olivo brings a whimsical feel and streak to Satine while also demonstrating the inner strength she must have to do her job. Christian and Satine are still easy to root for, and the audience feels a nostalgia while watching the characters be freshly brought to life in the world of the Moulin Rouge.
I walked into the theatre and immediately felt like I was at the Moulin Rouge. Justin Townsend's lights, Derek McLane's set, the atmosphere, performers already entertaining, and the Moulin Rouge sign as a focal point instantly put me in the world and mindset of the show. The stunning set was second to none. The beginning of the show absolutely got off on the right foot with a moment for the audience to connect with Christian leading into "Lady Marmalade". The exposition of the entire story was essential to the success of the story, and I think it was done with care and intelligent choices. Introduction of characters and letting the story unfold just worked for the stage. The pacing of the show was well-done, and the plot remains fairly similar to the film.
As a fan of the film, there are changes I adored and changes I disagreed with. I think the musical falls short mostly related to elements of Satine's character and the dramatic ending. Satine's character differs in the musical in the sense that there is a missed chance to really explore who she is or what she wants as an individual. Satine's primary motivation for her actions seems to be protecting her "sisters" at the Moulin Rouge and saving the production. There is still the point of her wanting Christian's words to be heard, but it's much less about her wanting to become an actress and having her own ambitions. Olivo still played her brilliantly, but it's more of a different focus. I think her sickness was also not set up extremely well and sort of seemed random by the time the audience is reminded of it later. I think the ending fell a little flat due in part to this, and I wish the way the very ending played out with Christian and Satine led me to have more tears in my eyes.
I really enjoyed most of the new modern music infused into the score and the way it was merged with the music used in the film. Some of the song choices weren't as timeless as I would've liked them to be, but overall I think most of the choices work for the story and in making it accessible to a modern audience. I thought Christian's character was refreshed well and still teaches the audience, with the help of Toulouse, the important lesson that "the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return".
It would seem that all roads lead to Broadway for this cast and crew. I'm looking forward to seeing how the production plays in New York.