Guest critic Kym Vaitiekus shares his thoughts on MOULIN ROUGE THE MUSICAL
Saturday 7 p.m., June 4, 2022, Capitol Theater.
Baz Luhrmann’s groundbreaking film comes to life on stage, remixed into an extravagant musical mash-up. A theatrical celebration of truth, beauty, freedom and above all love.
Luhrmann created the 2001 film with a passion for reinventing the musical with cinematic work based on the Moulin Rouge. The entertainment venue that opened in 1890. It is the birthplace of Can-Can and the beginnings of the cabaret genre.
Luhrmann cleverly used popular music in mashup melodies that encapsulate the joy and fun of the musical while translating it into a new language we immediately understood.
Producers Carmen Pavlovic and Gerry Ryan have the honor of creating Australia’s first musical produced on Broadway. Win ten Tony Awards including Best Musical in 2021.
Director Alex Timbers and screenwriter John Logan worked together to create this great, immersive, concert-style production. Timbers, after his first tour in Melbourne, now brings this spectacular work to Sydney.
We follow Christian (Des Flanagan) the American in Paris seeking to express his passion through music and song. He tries to engage Satine (Alinta Chidzey), the star attraction at the Moulin Rouge, in a new musical collaboration.
Satine mistakes him for the Duke (Andrew Cook) who was drawn to the bohemian locale by MC Harold Zidler (Simon Burke). Zidler convinces the Duke to save the business from ruin with the promise of Satine’s affection.
Satine’s engagement to the Duke and the plan to save the Moulin Rouge are thwarted when she and Christian fall in love.
To captivate the Duke’s investment, Christian, Toulouse-Lautrec, Santiago and Satine create a new musical for the Moulin Rouge.
A production that emulates the new date and composes the drama of their whole lives.
Timbers, with this tale, has created a visual spectacle that takes us on a nonstop musical feast. As soon as you enter the auditorium, you feel the energy, the essence and the decadence that the night will bring.
The story is told with amazing musical numbers, one after another. Each has the presence and dynamics of a grand finale.
At one point during the show, the audience clapped for 5 long minutes, with the performers holding difficult poses with absolute professionalism.
We enjoy a variety of theatrical styles, it’s as if the creative team had an unlimited budget or were told to act like it was. Every department head took advantage of this opportunity, not to indulge in gratuitous excesses but to give the gift of abundance of entertainment. Their skills and creativity are limitless.
Derek McLane’s set design is pure glitz and glamour. An impressive stage for dynamic dance sequences. It also moves cleverly through the different locations of the story, from creating the club room vibe in that grand auditorium to creating the bohemian streets of Paris and at the same time it’s a scene terrific for concert-style sequences.
McLane’s set works beautifully with Justin Townsend’s lighting design. Townsend’s work is phenomenal. He masterfully uses all the techniques in the book and does it with aplomb. Her work is a visual assortment creating looks ranging from emotional moments to music video images to the dynamics of a pop concert.
Equally impressive is Peter Hylenski’s sound design. With the collection of over 70 songs, it’s the perfect blend of punch and clarity. The toe-tapping mash-ups are expertly crafted and worth the ticket price alone. The lyrical puree of love between Christian and Satine is ingenious.
Des Flanagan takes on his first leading role on the main stage and captivates us all. Her Christian is a warm, captivating and seductive soul. His stage presence is magnificently imposing. The role of Flanagan gives him the opportunity to display his powerful voice as well as his wide engaging emotional range.
Alinta Chidzey’s Satine is gorgeous and divine. His voice is exceptional. His interpretation of Firework, one of the rare numbers where a character is alone on stage, is sublime. Chidzey’s singing is full of emotion, she commanded the stage and held the audience in her hands. Adding to the many highlights of the night.
In some dialogue scenes, Satine was less delicate in expressing her feelings. The chemistry between Christian and Satine was also less intense than expected. Satine’s battle with consumption was portrayed with a few coughs and with the occasional bloody handkerchief. Chidzey’s role is physically demanding and unlike one who dies of consumption.
Overnight, it seemed like these accompanied picks, along with a simpler story, were devices to push the drama forward to the beat, in the name of showcasing the extraordinary musical numbers. And they are great.
That said, Flanagan’s final scene gave us a powerful and emotional taste of the impact of love.
Simon Burke is perfect for MC Harold Zidler. His expertise delivers an eccentric, charming, cheeky, devious and tender Zidler. It’s a role that expressively displays Burke’s vast acting skills. More please.
Andrew Cook’s The Duke is the ultimate heartless businessman. Cook commands the role with verve and intensity.
Ryan Gonzalez captures the role of Santiago with panache and dramatic passion.
Tim Omaji plays the sincere, determined and serious Toulouse-Lautrec magnificently.
It’s interesting to see the diversity of the cast extend to the role of Omaji, where a big, burly man plays a short cripple and a famous entertainer. This choice is in keeping with the theme of the evening to present the essence of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love in a concert style musical theater extravaganza. With inventiveness and extravagance, this production takes the simple story line and interprets it into a feast of entertainment.
Sonya Tayeh’s choreography wonderfully captures the essence of the Moulin Rouge as well as the masterful spectacle of dynamic and energetic sequences. His work is redeemed by the miraculous whole. Their skill, effort, technique and passion are remarkable.
Not only the best ticket in town. It is an extraordinary musical theater. A flashy and glamorous interpretation of the bohemian universe of the Moulin Rouge which is pure entertainment.
Spectacular. Amazing. Phenomenal. Extraordinary.
Photography Michelle Grace Hunder and Daniel Boud
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