Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Keller Auditorium

This Tony-winning spectacular runs through Jan. 15.

By: Jan. 10, 2023
Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Keller Auditorium
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If I were to rate all the musicals I have ever seen by degree of pizzazz, MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL is the uncontested #1. There's a reason this show won all of the big technical Tony Awards - for best scenic design, costume design, lighting design, and sound design - as well as best musical and a bunch more. The national tour of this Broadway hit, now running at Keller Auditorium, literally defines the word spectacular. It's dazzlingly gorgeous and also oh-so-much fun!

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL is based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 movie musical (but it's much, MUCH better than the movie). The show takes place in the 1890s but uses popular modern pop music to tell the story of Christian (Conor Ryan), a poor young poet from Ohio who makes his way to Paris, hooks up with the OG Bohemian crowd (including Roulous-Lautrec, played by André Ward), and falls in love with Satine (Courtney Reed), the star singer at the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately for Christian, a rich Duke (David Harris) also becomes captivated by Satine, and the nightclub needs money. You can guess the rest of the plot.

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!

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL is a jukebox musical, though unlike any other show in that genre. It contains a whopping 70 songs, or, more accurately, portions of songs, from artists ranging from David Bowie and Elton John to Madonna and Beyoncé. If you're up on pop music from the past few decades, you'll recognize all of them, and that recognition is one of the thrills of watching the show - particularly in a number that features approximately every love song ever written.

The music is more than a gimmick though, it's an opportunity for the stars to shine. In addition to giving a truly excellent performance overall, Conor Ryan is a master at song interpretation - his version of "Rolling in the Deep" rivals Adele for sheer emotional power. And Courtney Reed nearly blew the roof off with "Firework" by Katy Perry.

The set, designed by Derek McLane, is practically a character of its own. The bright red lights that shine out into the theatre make you feel like you're indeed at the famed nightclub, and it feels like magic when the set transforms to the streets of Paris.

And then there's the dancing! With choreography by Sonya Tayeh's, the musical has everything from the traditional can can to a stunning modern dance number to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" featuring the impossibly flexible Libby Lloyd. This is one of those musicals, like Hamilton, where there is always something happening somewhere on stage. Between the actual dancing and the way all of the characters express themselves through movement, the whole show feels like one big dance.

MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL is one of the most fun things I've seen on stage. It runs through January 15. Go see it! More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade


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