Review by Alison Stoddart
In the depths of Sydney’s Seymour Centre, a rambling, rollicking, romp of a panto unfolds to the delight of the opening night crowd. The atmosphere was built from the moment of entry into the Reginald Theatre. This was achieved with a long dark corridor entryway filled with smoky air and an intimate cabaret restaurant vibe. The theatre had been re-imagined with small tables for two dotted around in front of the stage, with normal tiered seating further back in the room. The stage itself had been reconfigured to make a catwalk that jutted out amongst the tables. Purple spotlights and a large stuffed elephant looming down at the audience from the gantry above completed the effect (and provided the prop to a well worn ‘elephant in the room’ joke later in the show). Evoking a Parisian, moulin rouge feel, the music on entry could be described as jazz bar mellow and very chilled, as people strolled in with their glasses of wine (or two).
The Trevor Ashley directed, and starred, show is a confusing mix of genres, talent and audience participation. The musical Moulin Rouge has been reworked into the Moulin Beige, a Kings Cross nightclub that needs to stage a comeback to stave off financial ruin. The riotously named cast consisted of Trevor Ashley as Satôn (pronounced Sat On) the star of the show, the owner of the nightclub Astrid Zeneca (Carlotta) and a trio of fit and fantastic supporting performers Jarrod Moore, Stephen Madsen and Jakob Ambrose.
The first half finished with a very good musical medley where Satôn and the three boys really started to enjoy themselves. You could palpably feel them having a great time and they relaxed nicely into their roles. They sang beautifully and transferred their enthusiasm to the audience who responded diligently. Unfortunately, this momentum didn’t last as they went on to have an awkward and, quite serious, microphone malfunction which brought the whole show to a standstill. Professionally, Trevor Ashley dealt with the problem and even managed to quip an aside about ‘these things always happening when the reviewers attend’.
The show included on trend, topical jokes involving Kings Cross, covid and monkeypox, premiers and even The Project but the quality of the jokes could have been improved upon. The writing bar seemed to be set low and the show was very aimed at a select market which could impact upon audience numbers. The inclusion of an audience participation limbo performance after intermission did little to enhance the show and was superfluous, and the show within the show of Satôn portraying three different characters in a send up of the STC’s ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’ was overdrawn and clunky.
Jarrod Moore was a standout talent with flair and enthusiasm matched by his lovely singing voice. Tight buns, youth and choreography certainly go a long way in this type of show. And the wonderful (and age defying) 79-year-old Carlotta who brings the house down with a performance of ‘I’m Still Here’, is ever present and evokes an amusing Phyllis Diller vibe.
Moulin Scrooge is an enjoyable adult-only panto and though its broader appeal may be limited, the show should still find its niche audience out for a fun night.