Review by Tatum Stafford
Whether you’ve seen the iconic Baz Luhrmann film, or don’t know the difference between bohemians and boulevardiers, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is one of the most spectacular musicals the world has ever seen.
After a sell-out season over east, the show made its Perth premiere on Sunday 26 February to a sold-out crowd and plenty of well-deserved applause and support. The story follows the 2001 film; tracing the love story of courtesan Satine and bohemian Christian as it weaves in and out of the iconic Moulin Rouge nightclub in the heart of Montmartre in Paris.
Much to the audience’s delight, the musical cranks the characters, music, set and choreography from the film up to 100, in all its glitzy, gorgeous glory.
It would be remiss to start a review of this show without mentioning its phenomenal set, designed by the decorated Derek McLane. It’s absolutely beautiful to behold, and reveals more and more detail the longer you gaze at it (did you know there are more than 3,500 lightbulbs and 12 unqiue chandeliers scattered throughout it?)
The show’s atmospheric pre-show sees cast members interacting with one another, and occasionally, peering out at the audience, before protagonist Christian enters and the iconic MOULIN ROUGE! sign ascends over the stage. This simple movement, emphasised by Justin Townsend’s stunning lighting design, was the beginning of a wildly enjoyable two and a half hours of theatre.
The Australian Moulin Rouge! The Musical cast are absolutely outstanding. The two leading players, Alinta Chidzey as Satine and Des Flanagan as Christian, play beautifully off one another and are stunning to watch and listen to. Simon Burke’s Harold Zidler was an absolute showstopper; on many sassy one-liners it appeared the role was almost written for him.
Jarrod Draper and Ryan Gonzalez worked phenomenally together as Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago, and James Bryers’ Duke was suitably menacing and captivating. Samantha Dodemaide stole the second act as the feisty Nini, and it was such a joy to watch her throw herself into such a stunning yet physically demanding role. Nini’s fellow dancers at the Rouge, Olivia Vasquez’s Arabia, Chaska Halliday’s La Chocolat, and Christopher J Scalzo’s Babydoll, were stunning to watch and worked beautifully together. Shout-out to Vasquez’s brilliant improv work when she found herself partner-less in the closing number, and pulled it off without a hitch and with a dazzling smile on her face.
The ensemble of this show is one of the most hard-working and talented I’ve ever seen. The intense and incredible choreography within the show was created by Sonya Tayeh, and this group work seamlessly to execute it. They also looked absolutely stunning in Catherine Zuber’s extravagant costumes, which looked phenomenal under the glittering stage lights.
As I was very familiar with the soundtrack before seeing the show, I knew what songs to expect and enjoy, but it was a real delight hearing audience members around me chuckle and have amused reactions as each first lyric rang out. Justin Levine’s music supervision and arrangements work a treat in a live setting, and was a highlight on the night.
One of the most heartening things about this Australian production is how many opportunities it has given local creatives. This includes cast members making their professional debuts, but also, the extensive set, sound, costume and other technical work that was completed here in Australia. It is such an impressive, high-quality production, and it carries a real sense of pride in local talent along with it.
It's safe to say this won’t be my last trip to Moulin Rouge! The Musical during its Perth run, as I truly believe that there is so much to look at that you’re unlikely to appreciate its finer details on your first viewing. An absolute marvel of a show that Perth should feel very fortunate to house!
Image Credit: Michelle Grace Hunter