Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Orpheum Theatre

Now thru Nov. 6. This is a not-to-be-missed theatrical extravaganza!

By: Sep. 14, 2022
Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at Orpheum Theatre
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Sometimes a show happily checks all the boxes for a satisfying performance, but then there is that rare creature that rises above the rest to so thoroughly dazzle, delight and enchant theatergoers that it leaves an indelible imprint on their minds forever. And what is the show? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Moulin Rouge! The Musical, a jukebox musical like no other. Prepare to be dazzled! Playing now through November 6, BroadwaySF's Moulin Rouge! The Musical will take your breath away.

In 2017, book writer John Logan set out to bring the epic 2001 Baz Luhrmann film of the same name back, as close as possible, to its original nightclub cabaret setting - the Broadway stage. It was a daring move that paid off when it swept the 2020 Tony Awards with 14 nominations and carrying away 10 gold statues wins, including Best Musical, Direction and Choreography; Scenic, Costume, Lighting and Sound Design. And with a veritable hit parade of 70 pop songs credited to 160 songwriters (Justin Levine, Matt Stine, Katie Kresek and Charlie Rosen won the Tony for Best Orchestrations), this is a not-to-be-missed music lover's dream!

Like the movie, the musical is set during one brief shining moment at the turn of the 20th century in the depressed and derelict Montmartre Quarter of Paris, which came alive with a creative spark during what would later come to be known as La Belle Époque (beautiful epoque).

Shunning stifling conformity and strict social class rules-and espousing an ethos of truth, beauty, freedom and love-the bohemian residents of Montmartre quickly became a glorious festival of artists, writers and courtesans and of course, performers of all persuasions. Suddenly the Moulin Rouge nightclub found itself hosting the biggest, most spectacular party in all of Paris.

News of the "party" being thrown nightly at the Moulin Rouge spread swiftly. And how could it not when the evening's performances featured beautiful, leggy women tossing caution and their skirts to the wind in a risqué dance called the Cancan? Needless to say, it become the favorite hot spot for secretly "slumming" aristocrats who craved the salacious, intoxicating and reckless abandon that such an atmosphere afforded them. (The rich ruin everything, do they not?)

It is into this milieu that history collides with fiction in John Logan and Lurhmann's young, impoverished American composer, Christian (a dreamy, lovelorn Conor Ryan) who tells us the story of his ill-fated love for the headliner and courtesan, Satine. Courtney Reed shines in this role as a woman torn between an unexpected love and the realities of her life as a courtesan whose income is always shaky. In fact, club owner, Harold Zidler (a devilishly delightful Austin Durant), has just informed her that the club will close unless she can use her wiles to convince the Duke of Monroth (David Harris rides the thin edge of quiet evil, delectably) to invest big money to keep them open. She understands her role. Unbeknownst to most of her fellow performers is the fact that Satine is ill, giving heartfelt meaning to the phrase "the show must go on."

And it does go on with Sonya Tayeh's Tony Award-winning sublime and sultry choreography that throbbed with sex and passion and consummate artistry. Libby Lloyd (as Nini), Harper Miles (as La Chocolate), Nicci Claspell (as Arabia) and Andrés Quintero (as Baby Doll) opened the showstopping Lady Marmalade and it just kept getting better and better. Special mention goes to Libby Lloyd whose legs seemingly defy gravity in every number, including her dance with Santiago (played with raw and focused energy by Gabe Martinez) at the beginning of Act II. Catherine Zuber's Costume Design ensures that what Tayeh says with her choreography, is echoed and defined in satin, leather, lace, fishnets, velvet gloves and, for one of Satine's gowns, over 3,500 Swarovski crystals.

As the story continues, Christian and his new friends Santiago (Gabe Martinez) and Toulouse-Lautrec (André Ward brings warmth, pathos and a burning boldness to the bohemian ideals of his Toulouse) are beneficiaries of Satine's secret affair with the duke, which of course, complicates her even more secret affair with Christian. It's doesn't take a lot to guess that things are not going to end well.

The story of Christian and Satine and the Moulin Rouge is lavishly enveloped in Scenic Designer Derek McLane's glittering red velvet valentine of a set which magically morphs into a Montmartre garret studio and then Satine's bedroom. The stage is flanked by the Moulin Rouge's signature red windmill as well as the larger-than-life blue elephant head - a nod to the giant stucco elephant that graced the al fresco café of the original establishment. The mood he creates in each setting is sublime, aided in no small part by Justin Townsends Lighting Design. Townsend takes his craft to another level. It's quite easy to see why this creative team was nominated for and won so many Tony Awards. The love, energy and talent in this cast and creative team created something very special and very magical. Get your tickets now.

As reviews go, this one is long, but I must add that BroadwaySF's managing director Rainier Koeners and his team have gone out of their way to extend the magic of Moulin Rouge! The Musical beyond the walls of the Orpheum theatre. They commissioned Tenderloin artist Diego Gómez to celebrate the Bohemian ideals of "Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love," in four large public murals on the Hyde Street side of the Orpheum. Writes Mr. Koeners, "We wanted to create a dynamic and immersive environment for Moulin Rouge! The Musical and provide our community with art that is always accessible. These murals will serve as a symbol of inclusion, reinvigorating our neighborhood with creativity and pride." Make sure you see them when you go see Moulin Rouge! The Musical!

Book by John Logan
Music and Lyrics by a constellation of stars
Playing now through November 6, 2022
Tickets are currently available to BroadwaySF members.
Remaining tickets will be made available at a later date.

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