Review: MOULIN ROUGE! at Aronoff Center

This spectacular production runs through June 4th in Cincinnati, OH.

By: May. 21, 2023
Review: MOULIN ROUGE! at Aronoff Center

Upon entering the theatre for the Broadway tour of Moulin Rouge!, now playing at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, OH, the audience is immediately hit with bright red lights, a beautifully layered stage, and an ensemble cast setting the vibe for the night. Then, right before the house dims, Christian walks across the stage for the first time, making people wonder who is this young, modest man among the glitz. All of a sudden, the music turns up, and the story begins.

Moulin Rouge! is based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film of the same name and originally starred Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. Known for its somber tale and use of modern music in a vintage setting, the story and its elements translated extremely well to the stage while also being different enough to appreciate the stage musical in its own right. The updated music for a 2023 audience, a strong cast and crew, and a tale of desperate, devoted love all make this production Moulin Rouge! excel beyond the surface of the fantasy.

The opening number, which most prominently features the classic song "Lady Marmalade", immediately sets a very different tone than that of the film. Instead of a somber introduction in reflection, the musical opts for pure sustaining energy. In short, it is a very sexy spectacle and beyond everything that one can imagine the Moulin Rouge to be. The house is flooded with music, dance, lights, and even confetti as the director of the cabaret Harold Zidler (Austin Durant) ensures his audience that this is the place where dreams come true. This message serves true in many ways throughout the show, for better and for worse.

The cast in this show is astounding in its empathy towards their characters. John Cardoza plays Christian with a bright midwestern innocence that makes him dreamy in a way that appeals to the masses, including Satine (Courtney Reed), a performer at the club who is already entrapped with her task of impressing the sleazy Duke of Monroth (Andrew Brewer). Cardoza has the charm and demeanor resembling that of Andrew Garfield, and that combined with his outstanding voice makes him a top-tier Christian. Meanwhile, Reed plays Satine with a heartbreaking past, hiding her shame and regret through the sparkle of her current life. Bejeweled with diamonds in her entrance, she makes the whole place shimmer. Together they portray survivors, two people with strong hearts drawn to each other through fate.

The score reinvents songs of many genres with a focus on pop songs of the 2010s, making it highly accessible for the new demographic. Satine performs a ballad version of Katy Perry's "Firework" while Christian's big solo of "Roxanne" by The Police hits the audience with intense emotion. And naturally, the beautiful love song duet of "Come What May" is impeccably performed by the two leads in a touching manner.

Beyond the shows performances, the themes play a huge role in considering the musical as a whole. The reiterated Bohemian values of freedom, beauty, truth, and love all intersect. Despite living in a world of aristocracy versus poverty, these things can be found anywhere and within anyone, making them more powerful than what material goods can bring. When the Duke admits his desire to not only control Satine but gain her unattainable heart, it is a beautiful truth to realize she is free to love whom she wishes, and although she can't show that at the time in order to protect her loved ones, she does learn this lesson before it's too late. This isn't a story about choosing the poor, sweet man over the rich, cruel man, or even a story about love conquering all. It is a story about what we will endure for the pursuit of love, despite how painful it can be. Toulouse (Nick Rashad Burroughs) says it best in his solo "Nature Boy": "The greatest just to love and be loved in return."

Moulin Rouge! runs through June 4th, 2023 at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati, OH and has upcoming stops in several more cities. For more information, visit, and for tickets to the Cincinnati performances, click the link below.

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy


Gabrielle McClinton, Christian Douglas, Robert Petkoff Will Lead MOULIN ROUGE! Tour Photo
Gabrielle McClinton, Christian Douglas, Robert Petkoff Will Lead MOULIN ROUGE! Tour

The North American Tour of the Tony Award®-winning Best Musical Moulin Rouge! The Musical will welcome Gabrielle McClinton as Satine, Christian Douglas as Christian, Robert Petkoff as Harold Zidler, Sarah Bowden as Nini and Danny Burgos as Santiago beginning Wednesday, September 27 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.  

Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer to Star as Satine in MOULIN ROUGE! Tour Photo
Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer to Star as 'Satine' in MOULIN ROUGE! Tour

Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer will step into the role of Satine in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical from July 18 through September 24.

John Cardoza Will Join the North American Tour of MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL Photo
John Cardoza Will Join the North American Tour of MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL

John Cardoza will join the North American Touring company of Moulin Rouge! in the role of Christian beginning Thursday, March 23 at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, TX. 

VIDEO: MOULIN ROUGE! National Tour Performs El Tango de Roxanne Photo
VIDEO: MOULIN ROUGE! National Tour Performs 'El Tango de Roxanne'

Watch a video of Conor Ryan and the national tour cast of Moulin Rouge! The Musical performing 'El Tango de Roxanne' on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The joining Ryan in the touring cast is Courtney Reed as Satine, Austin Durant as Harold Zidler, Gabe Martínez as Santiago, Libby Lloyd as Nini, and more.

From This Author - Ana-Brit Asplen

Ana-Brit Asplen, 25, is a 2019 Theatre Arts graduate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She moved to the Cincinnati area in early 2022 and has been seeing as many shows as possible in every dir... Ana-Brit Asplen">(read more about this author)


#repshow# in[i]# Hello, Dolly!
The Carnegie (2/02-2/18)
#repshow# in[i]# Disney’s Finding Nemo JR.
The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati (4/20-4/29)
#repshow# in[i]# Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella: Youth Edition
The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati (2/17-2/26)
#repshow# in[i]# Fiona: The Musical
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (11/29-12/29)
#repshow# in[i]# SIX (Boleyn Tour)
Aronoff Center (4/23-5/05)
#repshow# in[i]# Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite
University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) (11/19-11/19)
#repshow# in[i]# The SpongeBob Musical: Youth Edition
The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati (10/14-10/23)
#repshow# in[i]# What the Constitution Means to Me
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (9/09-10/01)
#repshow# in[i]# Aladdin
Aronoff Center (11/14-11/19)
#repshow# in[i]# The Match Game
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (4/13-5/05)

Recommended For You