The world-renowned musical ‘Moulin Rouge!’ opened its doors in London a couple of weeks ago and after joining thousands of people in the virtual queue for tickets back in May, my friends and I finally set foot in The Piccadilly Theatre last Saturday for one of the preview performances. The ‘spectacular spectacular’ stage production is an adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 Oscar-nominated love story that is adored by musical theatre fans across the globe. With a musical score full of iconic pop songs, the show debuted on Broadway in Summer 2019 and took home 10 Tony Awards at the 74th annual awards ceremony. The much-anticipated London production officially opens on the 9th January (rescheduled from 8th December due to COVID cases), but we were fortunate enough to secure tickets for a Saturday matinee ahead of this date. It was so exciting to be able to see the spectacle that is Moulin Rouge! so early in its London run and it did not disappoint.
Atmosphere on arrival
The security and front-of-house team made the ticket, COVID-pass and bag checking experience so smooth. Every process was staggered, and when we reached the theatre lobby we were able to purchase souvenirs with lots of space and breathing room. Face masks are compulsory for entering the theatre and it was great to see the security team enforcing the COVID policies upon entry.
As we entered the auditorium, I let out a gasp in admiration as the creative team behind Moulin Rouge! The Musical had absolutely transformed the theatre for the show. The auditorium was decorated with red velvet, a model of the ‘Moulin Rouge’ windmill and the iconic elephant from the movie. The creative team have done a fantastic job bringing the spirit of the iconic venue and movie to London.
Much like Luhrmann’s cinematic masterpiece, the setting for the musical is Paris during the late 1800s: specifically the Moulin Rouge cabaret club and the arty Montmartre district of the city. The story centres on the whirlwind romance between bohemian songwriter Christian and courtesan Satine, who meet at the entertainment venue on one magical evening in Paris. Christian’s friends Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago encourage him to go to Satine and pitch a potential musical that could be performed at the famous venue. Satine is under the false impression that Christian is the Duke of Monroth: a member of the French aristocracy that will save the club from financial ruin. She attempts to seduce him and after the misunderstanding comes to light, Satine, Christian, Toulouse-Lautrec and club director Harold Zidler must convince the real Duke to invest in the club and their upcoming production.
Suffering in silence, Satine’s health is deteriorating with tuberculosis by the day and she is determined not to let her illness stop the efforts to save the club. Tensions arise between Christian, Satine and the Duke in the second act as the wealthy antagonist begins to exercise his power over the Moulin Rouge’s diamond. Satine is at the Duke’s side in public but begins a passionate love affair with Christian in the shadows. Will they make it through rehearsals and keep their beloved venue out of financial trouble? Will Satine and Christian finally get to be together? The mantra for Moulin Rouge! is truth, beauty, freedom and love and these themes are echoed throughout the production.
Music and dance
From the moment that the dancers started the can-can steps in the opening scene, I instantly realised that the dance numbers were going to be incredible. The production was set to a modern-day jukebox score, but the creative burlesque-inspired choreography and 19th-century costumes transported us back to a bygone era of Paris. It is this mash-up of past and present that made the movie so inspiring to audiences and the combination of old and new has an even greater impact live on stage. My favourite dance scene was the second act’s ‘El Tango De Roxanne’. It was so dramatic and emotive, with the intensity of a professional argentine tango on Strictly Come Dancing.
I was thrilled to see ‘Elephant Love Medley’, ‘So Exciting’ and ‘Come What May’ feature in the stage production. The theatrical version of Elephant Love Medley featured four times as many love songs as the movie and when the love-struck pair started singing a section of ‘Everlasting Love’, my friends and I practically cheered! What a great addition to the iconic Moulin Rouge! medley track. There was an Adele track in act two which garnered a similar reaction; they couldn’t bring Moulin Rouge! into the 2020s and not include a song by the world-famous artist. The musical team managed to fit sections of approximately 70 pop songs into the soundtrack and it’s so impressive how they manage to jump between the tracks seamlessly.
Sets and staging
Showcasing the streets of Montmartre and the wealthy Champs-Elysées district, the three-dimensional and immersive Parisian sets helped convey the contrasts between the bohemian and aristocratic lifestyles. Christian’s intimate apartment was designed as a creative safe space with its views of the Latin Quarter and it couldn’t be further from the grandeur of the Champs-Elysées. The differences in the sets helped amplify the theory that Satine is much more at home with the bohemian lifestyle.
Next stop… Paris!
If I didn’t know better, I’d have said that Moulin Rouge! was made for the stage. Baz Luhrmann’s tale of truth, beauty, freedom and love lends itself really well to theatre with its jam-packed 21st-century score and iconic dances. It really is a ‘spectacular spectacular’ and I feel very fortunate to have been able to see a preview performance.
Bringing the atmosphere of 1890s Paris to the streets of London, a visit to Moulin Rouge! The Musical is bound to make you want to visit ‘bohemian’ Montmartre. I can’t wait to head back there soon and soak up the atmosphere of this iconic area of Paris. Moulin Rouge! is playing at The Piccadilly Theatre until May 2022 and tickets can be purchased via the ATG Tickets website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx