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Student Blog: Why Make Moulin Rouge! a Musical?


I'm analyzing why the film Moulin Rouge! is an interesting story to adapt into a musical.

Student Blog: Why Make Moulin Rouge! a Musical?
Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit in Moulin Rouge!: The Musical

In honor of the long-awaited return of Broadway, I wanted to focus on a fairly new musical: Moulin Rouge! In this post, I want to explore what about the original movie makes this tale ideal inspiration for an innovative and entertaining musical adaptation.

At the core of this narrative are the values of truth, beauty, freedom, and love. Four simple words are magnified and personified in many ways throughout this film. Set in 1900 Paris, optimistic writer Christian falls in love with the "sparkling diamond" of the Moulin Rouge, Satine. Little does he know that a happily ever after isn't as easy as it seems, especially when a Duke takes a fancy to Satine. Nevertheless, Christian and Satine attempt to battle their obstacles with these values in mind. What's beautiful about this story is that because it doesn't have the happiest of endings, it makes the relationship between Christian and Satine more honest and raw. The stereotypical fairytale ending is not the case in Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! has always been a movie that I've held close to my heart and Baz Luhrmann, the director of the film, is one of my favorite filmmakers. Most notably, I've always been captivated by his clever ways of fusing elements of different time periods. A core part of the way this story is told is through modern music that is weaved throughout, even though the story is set in 1900 France. The 2001 film featured songs by the Beatles, Elton John, Madonna, and many more. The musical's new take on the story allows for a whole new library of music to be considered since the movie's first release. Now, by including artists like Katy Perry, Sia, and Adele in the musical, the topical song list helps the show appeal to a wider audience in 2021. By essentially blending cultures from two different time periods, I believe that it adds more depth to the story. To me, the use of contemporary music emphasizes that nothing existing in the world of the play (1900 France) could express the characters' feelings more accurately than, for example, a David Bowie song.

Student Blog: Why Make Moulin Rouge! a Musical?
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! (film)

In the musical, there is more room for songs that give the audience more insight into these characters as individuals. In the movie, most of the songs between Christian and Satine show how harmonious and compatible they are. However, the musical takes a different approach and with songs like Firework, we are able to see Satine's internal thoughts that weren't apparent in the film. Also, to contrast duets like Come What May where Christian and Satine are clearly on the same page with their relationship, the addition of Crazy Rolling in the musical allows the audience to see them in a more disconnected and unstable place. Crazy Rolling is still a powerful duet, and the perspective shift showcases Satine and Christians' individual thought processes. This is something I feel there wasn't a lot of in the movie. However, I think it's important to point out that El Tango de Roxanne is a song included in both versions of the story. But, in the movie, the audience is only aware of Christian's jealousy of the Duke, and Satine's perspective is arguably skipped over.

What this story teaches us is that we should cherish those closest to us, be true to ourselves and love unconditionally, no matter the stakes. Moulin Rouge! also tells us to take nothing for granted, and to pursue our instincts no matter how the odds may look. In my opinion, that seems like a universal story and this is definitely one where audiences will most likely find themselves rooting for the underdog. Because of this, I think the film Moulin Rouge! is an interesting and exciting source material to inspire a musical adaptation. Plus, Aaron Tveit is returning as the lead role of Christian. What could be better?!

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From This Author Student Blogger: Mia Van Deloo