Review Roundup: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL National Tour; What Did the Critics Think?

The tour is now playing in Minneapolis

By: Apr. 22, 2022
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Moulin Rouge!The Tony Award-winning Best Musical Moulin Rouge! The Musical is now on tour!

The cast is led by Courtney Reed as Satine and Conor Ryan as Christian, as well as Austin Durant as Harold Zidler, André Ward as Toulouse-Lautrec, David Harris as The Duke of Monroth, Gabe Martínez as Santiago and Libby Lloyd as Nini. Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer is the Satine Alternate. The cast also includes Nicci Claspell, Harper Miles, Andrés Quintero, Adrienne Balducci, Andrew Brewer, Jack Cahill-Lemme, Sam J. Cahn, Darius Crenshaw, Alexander Gil Cruz, Alexa De Barr, Tamrin Goldberg, Alexis Hasbrouck, Jordan Fife Hunt, Justin Keats, Tyler John Logan, Tanisha Moore, Brayden Newby, Kent Overshown, Amy Quanbeck, Adéa Michelle Sessoms, Jenn Stafford, Denzel Tsopnang, Travis Ward-Osborne, Sharrod Williams, Jennifer Wolfe and Ricardo A. Zayas.

For a full list of touring dates, click here.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Chicago Reviews

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The eye-popping design elements of this show really are a reason to attend: The set, by Derek McLane, is like a box of chocolates. It's ornate but also designed to mutate according to how it is lit by Justin Townsend. And Catherine Zuber's costumes truly are a banquet of retro Parisian sensuality, a fusion of erotica and nostalgia. No wonder the people all around me Wednesday kept exhaling little gurgles of repressed pleasure.

Catey Sulliban, Chicago Sun-Times: If you can ignore the story, you're left with an inarguably entertaining night of music. This is a production that brings out the confetti cannons in the very first song and ramps things up from there. That rock-concert-adjacent, frenetic, hallucinogenic, sequin tsunami aesthetic is almost impossible to resist.

Misha Davenport, BroadwayWorld: Reed's Satine is enchanting. Though hardened from the circumstances of her upbringing, she is determined to eke out the best life that she can for herself and those around her. She and Ryan both share intense chemistry and are both able to match each other in vocal prowess.

Minneapolis Reviews

Korey Beyersdorf, BroadwayWorld: If you like pop music, this show will delight you from beginning to end. This Broadway megamix of hits (over 70 are credited in the show) mashes up songs from the 60's to present day, often bringing the audience to laugh with delight as a song was cleverly mixed into a scene. I'll admit, jukebox musicals are not usually my thing, but I was impressed by how Music Supervisor Justin Levine was able to weave each song flawlessly together. The second act stunner "Crazy Rolling" takes two amazing songs ("Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley and "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele) and uses them to show how painful and intense (and ultimately, ill-fated) the love between Christian and Satine truly is.

Jared Fessler, BroadwayWorld: Of course, many of us have seen the film version. When you walk into the Orpheum theatre, you are immediately blown away by the set with its dazzling display of lights, the elephant, and windmill. It feels like you are in the Moulin Rouge. The show begins with a big number of talented cast members and dance numbers. The crowd was already going wild, and the energy was through the roof.

Boo Segersin, Twin Cities Arts Reader: Based on the Oscar-winning movie of the same name, Moulin Rouge does a fantastic job at adapting the story for the stage and contemporary audiences. While not an exact copy of the film, this jukebox musical (book by John Logan) hits many of the same beats. It also updates the soundtrack, with musical theatre versions of many more recent hits alongside the older ones used in the film's iconic production numbers. These popular and recognizable songs means the audience does not need to try as hard to understand the lyrics and parse out what is happening in the plot. This creates and easy entrance into the show and the audience audibly engaged with the show in ways not often heard in the theatre, especially in Minnesota. Whoops, claps, and hollers were not uncommon as easily recognizable songs began, and when they finished, the audience exploded with cheers.

Buell Theatre - Denver, CO

On Stage Colorado: It's a ton of fun, all driven by a powerhouse pit band and a topnotch cast full of big voices. Of course, if you're going to do a musical about a place famous for its dancing, choreography is key, and Moulin Rouge goes well above and beyond. Choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, the numbers feature not just a lot of technical expertise but also high-speed changes and sharp changes aided by creative blackouts and other lighting shifts. The costumes by Catherine Zuber are amazing - particularly the highly versatile can-can dresses.

Orpheum Theatre - San Francisco, CA

Steve Murray, BroadwayWorld: Red and Ryan work well together as the doomed couple with fine voices. Harris's Duke is amply detestable, and Andre Ward is a standout as Toulouse-Lautrec. Austin Durant is the slimy Harold Zidler, proprietor of the Moulin Rouge and pimp for Satine. The ensemble cast is as hardworking as it gets.

Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle: The show, which opened Friday, Sept. 9, at BroadwaySF's Orpheum Theatre, builds the kind of fin de siècle Paris where characters clutch a ghost light by the neck or heave themselves onto the edge of the proscenium in the depths of their desire or agony. Actually, a lot of the time there are a half-dozen concentric prosceniums, each in the shape of a heart and trimmed in gilt filigree, like a tunnel of love. Tony Award-winning designer Derek McLane created the blinding-in-a-good-way set.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts - Costa Mesa, CA

Christopher Smith, The Orange County Register: Easily the flashiest and crash-bang-iest of recent shows, this road production struts its stuff even before the opening curtain. Sometimes, secondary Tony awards are barely noticeable, but in this case it's the choreography, costumes, lighting, sound and orchestration that power this sensory assault at its galvanizing best.

George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theatre - Salt Lake City, UT

Tyler Hinton, BroadwayWorld: Conor Ryan is a bright-eyed Christian descending into despair, and Courtney Reed (who originated the part of Jasmine in Broadway's ALADDIN) is a steely Satine softening to his advances. Their voices blend beautifully together but also singularly soar in their solos.

Ryan Painter, KUTV: Despite being built out of mishmashed pieces of popular love songs, "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" isn't a jukebox musical where you get a bunch of talking, a song performance, and more talking. It's more conventional in a sense, but to suggest that "Moulin Rouge!" is conventional in anything other than structure feels like a step too far. It's controlled chaos. A wash of neon light, can-can dancers, and bit of burlesque surrounding a story of forbidden love set within the underbelly of the Paris red light district. It's not exactly a family show, but it is less scandalous that it could be. There's no nudity and the sex is referenced and teased. I'd call it playful, rather than lurid. I think the appropriate adjective is "bawdy."

Peri Kinder, The City Journals: The Tony Award-winning choreography and costumes create a feeling of wild parties, lowered inhibitions and the possibility of fantasies fulfilled. More than 60 songs are teased, mashed up and sprinkled throughout the show, with many audience members singing along to their favorites.

Paramount Theatre - Seattle, WA

Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: This is, simply put, a pale imitation by creators who didn't trust the story. Instead, they chose to throw everything they could into it and ignore another old adage "less is more". And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" at the Paramount Theatre a blinded and deafened MEH. People already love this story. You don't need to beat them over the head with the vehicle.

Jerald Pierce, Seattle Times: At face value, the quality of the show is top tier. You'll enjoy gorgeous costumes designed by Catherine Zuber and a spectacular set design from Derek McLane. The show really seems to prioritize the spectacle, so much so that it can begin to feel like an assault on the senses. It can be so loud and in-your-face that the quieter moments, like Christian's nervous patter or the cute moments of flirting between the central lovers, come as a blessing. One standout quieter moment is André Ward, who played Toulouse-Lautrec, showcasing his phenomenal voice on his rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy." But overall, the show struggles to meld the music with the love story at its core.

Keller Auditorium - Portland, OR

Krista Garver, BroadwayWorld: But, honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a show where the plot mattered less. It's really just a springboard for the visual and aural feast that is the real point of this show. And what a feast it is!

Rachel Saslow, Willamette Week: Ecstatic can-can lines. Immersive, glamorous sets made to look like the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. Phenomenal dancing, especially by the exquisite Libby Lloyd, who works her magic as Nini in black lace G-string lingerie. Don't get to your seat late or you'll miss some killer sword-swallowing just before the lights go down.

Walton Arts Center - Fayetteville, AR

Kevin Kinder, Fayetteville Flyer: "Moulin Rouge!" is a jukebox musical on steroids, zipping around from Elton John to Fun. to David Bowie to Madonna to Destiny's Child and more. It's quite chaotic; one such montage moves from Lady Gaga to Soft Cell to The White Stripes to Britney Spears to The Eurythmics in the span of about three minutes. The musical features many of the same songs as the film, but also received an update to include songs from the 22 years since the film debuted.

Hobby Center for the Performing Arts - Houston, TX

Chris Vognar, Preview: It's not hard to see how "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" won a whopping 10 Tonys, including best musical. This is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser - you can always tell when a cheering audience actually means it - that has a clear idea of what it wants to do and how to do it. It's also a case study in how just a little bit less can be a lot more in the right medium.

Music Hall at Fair Park - Dallas, TX

Lauryn Angel, Red Carpet Crash: The sets and costumes are some of the most lavish I have seen. When we arrived, the stage was flanked with a large elephant statue on one side, and a working lighted windmill on the other. The stage itself was set with a series of heart-shaped cut-outs, centering on a filigreed heart, framed with a damask curtain - all lit with red and gold lights. The sumptuous style of the movie was definitely replicated here, and combined with the incidental music, created the illusion we might be at the famous nightclub. The gorgeous costumes of the club's denizens kept up this atmosphere. The show definitely nails the aspect of "beauty" in the Bohemian mantra of "Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Love.

Fox Theatre - Atlanta, GA

Emma Loggins, FanBolt: The music here is just so, so good. Aside from the film's most memorable songs, there are also countless songs or pieces of songs that the audience will recognize (even a few lines from Paula Cole's I Don't Want to Wait). The nostalgia is strong here and in the most beautiful way.

Durham Performing Arts Center - Durham, NC

Nicole Ackman, BroadwayWorld: Unfortunately, John Logan's book for Moulin Rouge! makes changes to the plot that don't serve the show well, and the mountain of music added to it takes away from the emotional beats of the story. It's hard to take Satine's plight seriously when she's singing "Firework" by Katy Perry as her big character introduction song. So everything rests on the musical's design and cast to make it an enjoyable night at the theater.

Aronoff Center - Cincinnati, OH

Taylor Clemons, BroadwayWorldJohn Cardoza is giving a star turn as Christian. His voice is magnificent and soaring, while his charm and naivete make him seem very warm and inviting. Courtney Reed as Satine is doing good work, as she has a great voice and wonderful stage presence. However, I longed for a little bit of fire in her performance. Austin Durant is a scene-stealer as Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge. His chemistry with Reed’s Satine is extremely heartwarming, and his second act solo “Chandelier” (yes, that one), is an absolute delight.

Playhouse Square - Cleveland, OH

Roy Berko, BroadwayWorld: The touring production, under the direction of Alex Timbers, with choreography by Sonya Tayeh, is high on spectacular scenic design, luxurious costumes, and flashy lighting effects.  It has high energy choreography.   The voices are good. Be aware that, as is often true of the State Theatre and its poor sound design and problematic acoustics, don’t expect to clearly hear the lyrics to the songs and the spoken words. 

Christine Howey, Scene: As Satine, Courtney Reed exerts a powerful vocal presence, especially when she is given the space to sing an entire song through to the end. (We can't be more specific, since the 56-page program wasn't able to squeeze in a song list.) At this performance, the role of her swain Christian was played by understudy Christian Douglas who also sang beautifully but was less successful in creating a compelling character. The owner of the cabaret club, stout Harold Zidler (Austin Durant), offers whatever slight comic relief the show provides. While Durant has a solid set of pipes, he does not command the stage as one would wish.

Kimmel Center [Merriam Theater] - Philadelphia, PA

Jamie Flowers, West End Best Friend: Every aspect of this show blew me away. As soon as you step into the Academy of Music, you are greeted with a champagne bar to get you in the mood. The inside of the theatre is probably as beautiful as the actual Moulin Rouge in Paris, with a lavish, golden interior and 5,000lb crystal chandelier. The stage set is one of the most beautiful that we have seen recently, reportedly almost as stunning as the Broadway stage, with dazzling lights and a beautiful red and gold palette to represent the passion and rich underbelly of Bohemian Paris. It’s a stark façade to the greys used to represent the other parts of Paris, which shows the fascinating dichotomy between fantasy and reality.

Kennedy Center - Washington, DC

Shelby Tyler, BroadwayWorld: While this adaptation of the film is flawless, the jaw-dropping tech for this show will leave you breathless for days to follow. The set designed by Derek Lane alongside Justin Townsend’s lighting is exceptional to see in action, highlighting every detail in the stunning costume design by Catherine Zuber. Bringing this iconic film to life is no easy feat and yet, these three captured the finest elements of this period, pushing the audience to lose themselves in the moment.

Lisa Traiger, DC Theater Arts: From ballads to love songs to full-on bangers, the songs pump up the crowd, then bring them down, before another crescendo of recognizable pop standards rises again. The 12-piece orchestra — two pianos, drums, reeds, trumpet, guitar, bass, violin/viola, and cello — is supplemented with electronic synthesizers for the appropriate discothèque feel. And, audiences, beware, some may find the amplified sound system l o u d. Accompanying this pastiche of songs, choreographer Sonya Tayeh — who made a name for herself on television competition dance shows and music videos, has also created works for Broadway, American Ballet Theatre, and the Martha Graham Dance Company — appropriately leans into the bump-and-grind as much as the step-ball-change. She challenges the excellent cast of dancers with nose-grazing kicks, sensuous pas de deux, an old-school rough-and-tumble male-dominant Apache tango duet, and, of course, the confetti-filled spectacle that is “Lady Marmalade.”

Shea's Performing Arts Center - Buffalo, NY

Michael Rabice, BroadwayWorld: Director Alex Timbers puts his own stamp on the production, no doubt influenced by Luhrmann's often dizzying cinematography in the movie. Beautiful people clad in beautiful costumes loom around the set before the show starts, oozing  risque sexuality. Choreographer Sonya Tayeh has a large troupe of lithe dancers at her disposal, employing all things French-- the can can pervades mixed with angular dances that would fit a Beyonce tour.

Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising: Again, the voices were strong, and the dancing designed by Sonya Tayeh was exciting, but I wasn’t grabbed.  When I go to a musical I want to be the leading man, I want to be that guy on stage, and I want to despise and boo the villain (if there is one).  I want to fall hopelessly in love with the leading lady, and if she dies on stage I want to go through a least two tissues.

Auditorium Theatre - Rochester, NY

Colin Fleming-Stumpf, BroadwayWorld: As someone who typically finds Baz Lurhman’s overall aesthetic really off-putting, the stage adaptation of “Moulin Rouge” has the best of both worlds: the movie’s captivating music, lush orchestrations, sultry performers and top-quality choreography without the whip-sawing, overwhelming visuals.

Leah Stacy, CITY Magazine: But a show of this magnitude can’t stand on curated radio hits alone. It must have a cast that carries the songs, dancing, and ultimately, the audience through the two-and-half hour run time. And reader, this cast is up for the challenge. Every role is played with enthusiasm, from speaking to ensemble — resulting in a fun, sexy romp that will take you from swaying in your seat to dancing through curtain call.

Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts - Hartford, CT

Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch: Gabrielle McClinton portrays the beautiful Satine, the performer who has endured a hard life. McClinton originated the role of Andelina Baker in “Paradise Square” on Broadway and has starred as the Leading Player in “Pippin.” Christian Douglas is superb in the role of his namesake Christian, the up and coming composer. Douglas made his New York City debut as Charlie Price in the Off-Broadway revival of “Kinky Boots.”

Hippodrome Theatre - Baltimore, MD

Timoth David Copney, BroadwayWorld: Every aspect of Moulin Rouge is visually stunning. Peter Hylenski’s sound design strikes that rare balance between orchestrations and vocal levels, Justin Townsend’s lights deserve an extra line of credit for perfectly illuminating the fantastic set designed by Derek McLane, and oh my!  Those costumes by Catherine Zuber so expertly capture the feel of the era that I wanted to don one of those can-can skirts myself. Pure tech delights in each and every scene shift and change. And so much of that magic happens with seeming ease, especially for an opening night.

Providence Performing Arts Center - Providence, RI

Andria Tieman, BroadwayWorld: In this production The Moulin Rouge, is a nightclub and performance venue in Paris operated by Harold Zidler, who also serves as Master of Ceremonies.  The venue is frequented both by the Parisian elite and also the young Bohemians who believe in beauty, truth and love above all things.  A recent arrival to Paris, Christian, falls in love with the headline performer, Satine, but their romance is doomed by factors outside of their control.  The stage at PPAC was transformed into an opulent club by luxurious sets by Derek McLane and showcased by some of the best use of lighting (designed by Justin Townsend) this reviewer has seen in a long time.  I may sound like a broken record at this point, but I will never stop expressing gratitude to touring productions who take the time and effort to create gorgeous and sumptuous physical sets, instead of relying on hacky projection.  The craftsmanship and effort does not go unnoticed, and in the case of this production, really makes the audience feel like this is its own unique experience, rather than a re-hashing of a movie we can stream at home.

Susan McDonald, The Providence Journal: Such enthusiasm compels the cast through energetic scenes, clad in gorgeous costumes and delivering solid vocals throughout. Christian Douglas’ performance as Christian is the standout, as he delivers powerful versions of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Roxanne” in the second act. His counter, Gabrielle McClinton as Satine, has moments of greatness. Her opening number, while perched on a swing above the stage, is a rich medley, starting with “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” that hits some power notes. But her delivery through the show is largely – and disappointingly – inconsistent.

Ohio Theatre - Columbus, OH

Richard Sanford, Columbus Underground: As someone who saw the movie when it came out and hasn’t seen it in the intervening 20 years, one of the great pleasures of this stage version is not only updating some of the songs while leaving centerpieces like Christian and Satine bonding over Elton John’s “Your Song” (sung with the right arc of trepidation blossoming into self-assurance by Douglas and McClinton), but piling on the excess – numbers bulge with sometimes bits of seven or eight songs, but they don’t strain; they move easily under those lights.

Boston Opera House - Boston, MA

Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe

Nate Hall and Odessa Gaines, The Tufts Daily: Douglas is instantly likable as Christian, the young artist who hopes to win Satine’s heart. His charisma and crystal-clear voice keep pace with the non-stop energy of the show, and he often outshines McClinton, his onstage love interest. Robert Petkoff excels as Harold Zidler, the jovial ringleader of the club, especially in his wonderful booze-fueled rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier” (2014). Nick Rashad Burroughs and Danny Burgos feel underutilized as Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago, the boisterous duo who bring Christian to the Moulin Rouge. Although, Santiago has an interesting romantic subplot with cabaret dancer Nini (Sarah Bowden). Act 2 opens with Santiago and Nini’s intimate performance of “Backstage Romance,” a dynamic number with magnificent choreography that complements their resonant vocals. Between the impressive lifts and the actors’ palpable chemistry, this number easily opens the act with a bang.

Straz Center [Carol Morsani Hall] - Tampa, FL

Drew Eberhard, BroadwayWorldGabrielle McClinton is beautifully captivating as Satine. She is our “Sparkling Diamond,” in every facet of the phrase. Emotionally grounded, and beautifully captured in stage presence and chemistry. Her moments with Christian will make your heart soar, and ache all at the same time. My only issue here, is she comes across almost too feeble in the beginning. We are only privy to the early stages of her sickness. She should be as strong out the gate as Christian, and in this instance there are moments where she seems to fade into the background. There is a stunning moment towards the end that will leave you breathless, where the company assumes an almost “ghost-like” figment of imagination, a very stunning closer, that must be witnessed.

Deborah Bostock-Kelley, BroadwayWorld: Throughout the entire production, the energy remains electric, fueled by exceptional lead performers and a truly astonishing ensemble. The choreography, costumes, and sets weave together seamlessly, creating an irresistible tapestry of entertainment that demands the audience's undivided attention. McLane transforms the stage from the vivid red hearts of the Moulin Rouge to a backstage dressing room, an outdoor stormy day, Christian’s tenement, to Satine’s theatre hideaway inside a blue circus elephant, the Duke’s home, and even recreating the windmill atop the real Moulin Rouge.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts - Orlando, FL

Aaron Wallace, BroadwayWorld: But despite its painful non sequiturs, which include a top-hatted man in the year 1900 pouring shots of absinthe while singing Sia’s “Chandelier,” the show has flashes of transcendence. In one early conversation, characters banter by borrowing single lines from different songs that suit their conversation — one sings Paula Cole, for example, and the other replies with The Police — in a way that calls attention to the jukebox form and, in doing so, comments upon its inherent absurdity.

Seth Kubersky, Orlando Weekly:  Their tragic tale still plays out against a surrealistic cyclorama of glamorous romanticism, and remains populated by a cast of colorful supporting characters: bitter backup dancer Nini (Sarah Bowden), Santiago the unintelligible Argentinian (Danny Burgos), idealistic artist Toulouse-Lautrec (Nick Rashad Burroughs) and especially the incorrigible emcee, Harold Zidler (Robert Petkoff, channeling a pre-transition Eddie Izzard). The secondary characters have received expanded backstories, but those mostly serve to sand off their quirky rough edges and create credulity-stretching connections to the leads, who both have radiant stage presences, but share minimal sexual chemistry. 

Broward Center For The Performing Arts - Fort Lauderdale, FL

Sun Sentinel

Wharton Center - East Lansing, MI

Stefani Chudnow, BroadwayWorld: The musical makes use of some original numbers as well as popular music from the last several decades, weaving these such pop songs together to make unique, show stopping moments. (Perhaps the best example of this is the act one finale, “Elephant Love Medley,” where the harmonies of lead actors Gabrielle McClinton and Christian Douglas bounce off each other and soar into the stratosphere.) 

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