Reviews/Musical Theatre

Moulin Rouge is dazzling, high-octane fun

27 February 2023

Moulin Rouge! The Musical chews through the hits in a sumptuous feast for the senses. While some might feel overwhelmed, Julie Hosking devours every moment.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Global Creatures
Crown Theatre, 26 February 2023

A few minutes into Moulin Rouge! The Musical and I’m having flashbacks to a movie theatre almost 22 years ago. My firstborn went berserk in utero, as if trying to keep up with the can-can dancers on screen, and barely stopped kicking for two hours.

I feel for anyone pregnant tonight. If anything, this adaptation is more high-octane than Baz Luhrmann’s colourful and chaotic film. You can feel the energy radiating from the stage.

What a stage it is too. Arrive at Crown Theatre early so you can soak up the opulent beauty of the chic salon dripping with rich red furnishings and sparkling chandeliers and, of course, the famous moulin rouge (red mill). From the moment the ensemble launches into Lady Marmalade, you’ll be swept along at such a dizzying pace you’ll barely have time to catch your breath.

The stage of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Lots of red lights and 5 people at the front of the stage singing and dancing.
The staging of ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ is sumptuous. Photo: Michelle Grace Hunder

In this version, our hero Christian (a charmingly gauche Des Flanagan) is a naïve composer newly arrived from Ohio, who instantly falls for gay Paris. When his new friends, Toulouse-Lautrec (Jarrod Draper) and Santiago (Ryan Gonzalez), take him to Moulin Rouge to convince the cabaret’s undisputed diamond to sing one of his songs (Elton John’s Your Song), Christian is utterly bewitched.

Who wouldn’t be after watching Satine (an incandescent Alinta Chidzey) descend from the ceiling in the first of countless sexy outfits singing Diamonds are Forever before segueing into a series of sparkling tunes (including Rihanna’s Diamonds and Beyonce’s Single Ladies).

Unfortunately for her impoverished suitor, the courtesan is meant to be seducing a devilish duke (James Bryers) to keep her livelihood and the only real family she has known afloat. Battling consumption, Satine is torn between following her heart and securing her future.

If this sounds too depressing for a musical, fear not. While there are moments of aching tenderness, Draper’s pitch-perfect Nature Boy among them, there is little time to wallow. The story is told through a glorious and riotous montage of songs, with Luhrmann’s mash-up of genres taken to the next level.

Where Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor warbled their way through Stevie Winwood, Tina Turner and David Bowie among others in the film’s celebrated Elephant Love Medley, the musical adds snippets from nine more songs to this set alone, giving the resistant Satine more ammunition with the likes of Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield and No Doubt’s Don’t Speak.

Alinta Chidzey as Satine and Des Flanagan as Christian holding each other on stage in 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical'. They are infront of windows and a sign which says Lamour.
Alinta Chidzey and Des Flanagan in ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’. Photo: Michelle Grace Hunder

The audience doesn’t quite know how to respond to the rapidly revolving door of familiar songs. At times, the gasps and laughs of recognition as the singers slide effortlessly from one hit to the next detract from the intensity of a scene but, equally, you’ll be hard pressed not to play “guess that tune”.

It is a mere quibble in a feast for the senses where more is never enough. As you’d expect from a production set in Paris during the Belle Époque, the costumes and staging are sumptuous.

The cast is uniformly excellent, the star-crossed lovers reaching even higher for Crazy Rolling, a bold duet melding Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. Simon Burke’s suitably louche manager Harold Zidler provides comic relief, as well as a memorable absinthe-fuelled take on Sia’s Chandelier. Bryers brings just the right amount of menace to the duke and Draper sprinkles some soul amongst the glitter.

The performances from the all-singing, all-dancing ensemble are rousing to say the least. It’s also wonderful to see such diversity of shape and gender killing it on stage (though it will be a welcome day when this is no longer noteworthy).

If you loved Luhrmann’s movie, you’ll adore the musical. My teenager, who has not seen the film, gave it 10 out of 10. Come to the cabaret, old chums – and prepare to be dazzled.

Pictured top: Satine and Christian in the city of love in ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’. Photo: Michelle Grace Hunder

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is at Crown Theatre until 21 April 2023.

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Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

Past Articles

  • Spring into the school holidays

    From Awesome activities to magical nannies, there are so many marvellous ways to have a jolly holiday, writes Julie Hosking.

  • In the eye of the storm

    Breaksea’s poignant story of the search for light in the darkest hours ignites the senses. Julie Hosking rides the waves of emotion.

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