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Review Roundup: Were the Critics Dazzled By Broadway-Bound MOULIN ROUGE? - Updating Live!

Review Roundup: Were the Critics Dazzled By Broadway-Bound MOULIN ROUGE? - Updating Live!

The pre-Broadway engagement of Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Emerson Colonial Theatre officially opened last night, August 3.

Set in Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France at the turn of the century, a world of indulgent beauty and unparalleled extravagance, of bohemians and aristocrats, of boulevardiers and mademoiselles, Moulin Rouge! The Musical tells the fictional story of an ambitious, lovesick writer, Christian (Aaron Tveit), and a dazzling, entrancing chanteuse, Satine (Karen Olivo). Their lives collide at the Moulin Rouge with its many characters including the host of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Danny Burstein), the brilliant and starving artist Toulouse-Lautrec (Sahr Ngaujah), the greatest tango dancer - and gigolo - in all of Paris, Santiago (Ricky Rojas), the tempting Nini (Robyn Hurder), and The Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu), the wealthy and entitled patron of the club who thinks he can buy anything he wants, including love.

Directed by Alex Timbers (Tony Award-nominated for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jacksonand Peter and the Starcatcher) with a book by John Logan (Tony Award® for Red), choreography by Sonya Tayeh (Lucille Lortel Award and Obie Award for Kung Fu, and Emmy winner), and music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) Moulin Rouge! The Musical will play this limited engagement at the newly refurbished venue (106 Boylston Street) prior to Broadway (New York City details to be announced).

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times; But the creators of this presumably Broadway-bound, $28 million spectacle - directed with wit and heart by Alex Timbers, with seductive, funny choreography by Sonya Tayeh - have tinkered artfully with their archetype, translating the cinematic splendors of Mr. Luhrmann's universe into more earthly pleasures. This "Moulin Rouge!" captures the sensibility of a movie-loving movie in a theater lover's language. And Ms. Olivo and Mr. Tveit, in a role he was born to play, make contemporary aural wallpaper like "Firework" (Ms. Olivo), "Roxanne" (Mr. Tveit) and "Rolling in the Deep" (both) sound like impassioned, personal cris de coeur that their characters might have invented on the spot and out of necessity. These songs are their songs, which somehow makes them, more than ever, your songs, too.

Bob Verini, Variety: As for the story, librettist John Logan has fortified the melancholy triangle contrived for the film by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. Courtesan/headliner Satine (the fierce Karen Olivo) is no passive lily waiting to be consumed by consumption, but a shrewd calculator of percentages in weighing poor but earnest songwriter Christian (dashing Aaron Tveit, injecting the right amount of madness) against the rapacious but well-heeled Duke of Monroth (moody, romantic Tam Mutu). That each man offers a plausible option for Satine invests her choices with greater weight and suspense.

Jan Nargi, BroadwayWorld: From the opening strains of "Lady Marmalade" to the superfluous mega-mix at the finale, MOULIN ROUGE plays to a crowd that came to party. Alcohol is brought right to one's seat, and the brightly lit cabaret-style set spills teasingly into the orchestra. The theatre, whose architecture borrows from the French Baroque style, is thus transformed into the infamous fin de siècle Paris nightclub that introduced the Can-Can to the world. Ringside seats put the "aristocracy" right in the middle of the action, while gilded cages on either side of the house allow scantily clad dancers to gyrate suggestively within arm's length of their patrons.

Patti Hartigan, The Boston Globe: The ensemble is top-shelf. As Christian, the boy from Ohio with a lovely mane of hair, Aaron Tveit is a breath of fresh air in a show with too many women in bustiers and tattered fishnet stockings. Sahr Ngaujah, as Toulouse-Lautrec, is the epitome of an artist, and he breaks your heart. Danny Burstein holds his own as Zidler. Karen Olivo's Satine is lovely. This is "La Boheme" a la Luhrmann, so it's no secret how she ends up, suddenly.

The production is as slick as it gets: Fosse meets Luhrmann. Derek McLane's sets are extravagant, ever-changing with a whimsical appearance of the Eiffel Tower. Catherine Zuber's costumes are appropriately Bohemian. Sonya Tayeh's sexy choreography never ends, with dancers touching each other and mingling body parts all over the theater. Alex Timbers's direction is spot-on in the first act, but the attempt to turn the second act into a tragedy rather than a feel-good musical sucks the energy out of the show. The upbeat tacked-on coda feels forced.

Debbie Forman, Cape Code Times: A world premiere, "Moulin Rouge" looks to Broadway. It has the splash and vigor, the color and blaze to wow an audience. Alex Timbers expertly directs the large cast and the big numbers in flawless precision. But there is still work to be done in igniting the story to match the splendid visuals.

Mark Shenton, The Stage UK: If we must have jukebox musicals, I only wish they were all as vivacious and utterly exhilarating as this. Moulin Rouge feels operatic in the high stakes it sets up; Luhrmann's own version of Puccini's La Boheme was a Tony winning Broadway hit in 2002, and this has a similar vibe... Although a Broadway transfer is yet to be announced, it is a certainty, as is that this show is going to be a massive hit.

Kilian Melloy, Edge Media: Director Alex Timbers puts all these top-notch design elements into a single elegantly packaged whole and does the same with the cast's performances. Mutu's Duke struggles to be worthy of Satine's love, but he's so warped by money and power he cannot grasp what it means to "earn" love rather than simply buy it; Tveit, meantime, delves into Christian's darker side by careening into murderous psychological territory; Satine, as embodied by Olivo, is an artist in the old-school, high drama sense, willing to die for her art, her man, or both together as a package deal; and Burstein's Harold stands out even among these larger than life characterizations as a blend of the Emcee from "Cabaret," a garden variety pimp, and Eddie Izzard's madcap role in Julie Taymor's film "Across the Universe" (another jukebox musical, come to think of it).

Boston and Beyond: The breathtaking, beyond fabulous set designs by Tony Award® winner Derek McLane and richly gorgeous costumes designed by Tony Award® winner Catherine Zuber, wrapped up in orchestrations and arrangements by Justin Levine, amazing lighting designs by two-time Tony Award® nominee Justin Townsend and sound designs by Tony Award® winner Peter Hylenski all create an exquisite world of indulgent beauty and unparalleled extravagance where bohemians and aristocrats as well as boulevardiers and mademoiselles all interact. Add the show-stopping, strong choreography by award-winning Sonya Tayeh and an ensemble of twenty-five super, supportive singers and dancers, this show provides all that is necessary for a Broadway hit!

Boston Arts Diary: Karen Olivo, as Satine, is an actress who won a Tony for Featured Actress in a Musical for her outstanding performance as Anita in the 2009 revival of West Side Story on Broadway. Capable as singer and actress, she fills the bill as the siren-star of Moulin Rouge, but the chemistry with Tveit's Christian is oddly off, seeming like she should be his governess rather than his paramour. In the film roles, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, both radiating an inner innocence, provide a better chemistry. Here, Olivo's Satine seems too burnt out to be up for an energetic romance with the youthfully exuberant Christian. Her cynical relationship with the Duke, played with an exquisite acidic malevolence by Tam Mutu, seems considerably more suitable, but that does not suit the story very well.

Be sure to check back as we will be updating the list as more reviews are released!

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