Remember the movie “Moulin Rouge?” Well, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” should not be compared to the film. Yes, the talented Baz Luhrmann wrote and directed the film, and collaborated with Craig Pearce for the musical, but to witness the show in person is a true spectacle. What is on stage in D.C. is a colorful, glitzy, over-the-top musical that is time well spent for those attending the show.
As the audience enters the theater, you notice there are performers on stage. “Am I late?” you ask yourself. No, it’s the show before the show. Actors are slowly moving into various positions on the stage. Two actresses are even sword-swallowing. What a way to arouse curiosity.
Winner of 10 Tony Awards, “Moulin Rouge!” takes place in Paris during days gone by, at a club for which this production is named. The set for the opening and for many scenes in the musical is beautifully bright and red, in rows of hearts representing unending love. It makes sense because this entertainment venue where the storyline plays out is about love that takes many twists and turns. Credit Derek McLane, scenic designer, for transforming the stage from a club setting to a sexy boudoir to street scenes.
The Story Unfolds
The actors are outstanding, and their singing voices are superb in bringing this story to life. Audiences learn that the Moulin Rouge club is losing money. The owner Harold Zidler, played by Austin Durant, must find a wealthy investor to keep things going. The top star of the Moulin Rouge club is Satine, a talented singer-dancer portrayed by Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, who is put in a position of luring money. The money happens to be available from the Duke of Monroth, played by Andrew Brewer.
Then there are two hustler-type characters Toulouse- Lautrec, played by Nick Rashad Burroughs and Santiago, played by Gabe Martínez. The two are producers looking for a break to create an entertaining show. They come across Christian, an American in Paris portrayed by John Cardoza, who happens to be a songwriter. The naive Christian learns fast to play along, but deception amongst all the major characters creates heartbreak.
Sing Along to Familiar Pop Tunes
It sounds sad, but the music kept the audience engaged with what I call the best mixtape of pop hits, combined with stage hits, and American standards. The obligatory “Lady Marmalade” is there, but there is so much more music from the likes of Elton John, Whitney Houston, David Byrne, Adele, Lady Gaga, Phil Collins, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, and so many others. There are many instances in “Moulin Rouge!” where the lyrics of well-known pop hits substitute for dialog. Audience members were moving to the tunes.
“Moulin Rouge!” is suggested for audiences 12 years and older as seductive overtones are throughout the musical. “Moulin Rouge!” is at the Kennedy Center until Sept. 24. For ticket information, go to the Kennedy Center website www.kennedy-center.org.Get a feel for the excitement of the North American Touring Company of “Moulin Rouge!” from this trailer: youtu.be/Zlhq9mplUcM.