Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount Theatre

The stage adaptation of the 2001 film comes to the Paramount

By: Dec. 17, 2022
Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount Theatre
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Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount Theatre
The cast of the North American Tour
of Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

More. That, Dear Readers, is the watchword the creators of the stage adaption of the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, "Moulin Rouge!", subscribed to. They threw in more sparkle wherever they could in this stage musical, currently playing at the Paramount. Unfortunately, they also threw in more songs, more lights, and certainly more bass in this spectacle that loses the heart and charm of the original in favor of assaulting the audience's senses.

The base story is there. Young wanna-be Bohemian Christian (understudy Andrew Brewer on the night I saw) has travelled to Paris to make his way as a writer. His fellow Bohemians convince him to take his songs to the Moulin Rouge to play for the star there, Satine (Courtney Reed). But the Emcee of the theater, Harold (Austin Durant), has other plans as he intends to introduce courtesan Satine to the wealthy Duke (understudy Denzel Tsopnang) in order to save the theater. But wires get crossed and Satine falls for Christian thinking he's the Duke. And chaos and a love story ensue.

That's the story lovers of the film, like myself, know and adore. And what made that film work so well was the care Luhrmann took to curate the pop songs throughout to tell the story. Enter music supervisor Justin Levine and director Alex Timbers and they've chosen to amp up everything beyond recognition. The majority of the songs from the movie are there but then they chose to jam in as many more recognizable pop songs as they could even when they made little sense. And each time they do, and the audience recognizes it, it gets a laugh. So, they keep gunning for those laughs. They make the sultry introduction of dancers Santiago and Nini (Gabe Martinez and Libby Lloyd) more of a joke as he sings about their "Bad Romance" and how it's "Toxic" instead of the stunning tango number to "Roxanne". Oh, "Roxanne" is there later but not nearly as good. And that's just a few of the myriad additions they bury the story underneath until it can no longer breathe. By the end of the show, it's like they don't even care about the story anymore as they resolve the love story with no danger or stakes from the Duke as he threatens Satine and then just disappears.

If all that weren't enough, the constant barrage of lights in your face and insanely over amped bass to the point of distortion is pervasive in every big group number (of which there are a lot). It got to be so bad that I began to wonder if the uproarious applause at the end of each of these spectacle numbers (yes, much of the audience seemed to be enjoying this much more than I) was a thank you from the audience that they stopped the assault. As I said, much of the audience seemed into it, and I guess the old adage might hold true and that I'm just too old as it was just too loud. But I wasn't the only one as I saw a few people leave right after the show and the initial assult started.

Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Paramount Theatre
Gabe MartÍnez as Santiago and Libby Lloyd as Nini
in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

There is certainly some talent up there and the understudies were in full force showing how amazing they are. Brewer was incredible. Not just a dashing leading man, but a performer with a fantastic voice, and great comedic and dramatic acting chops as his final moments were some of the rare moments of truth and beauty in the show. And his chemistry with Reed was wonderful when the show allowed them to have any kind of moment. Tsopnang as the Duke also had a great voice and some killer moves, but I could have used more menace from this villain of the piece. I just didn't feel the danger.

Speaking of villains, the jealous supporting dancer Nini is no longer one. She mentions her drive to be the star but then tosses it aside and no longer even considers betraying Satine sapping any interesting character from the role. But Lloyd and Martinez do make for a sultry couple and absolutely nail their dance numbers. I just wish they were given more to do.

This is, simply put, a pale imitation by creators who didn't trust the story. Instead, they chose to throw everything they could into it and ignore another old adage "less is more". And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" at the Paramount Theatre a blinded and deafened MEH. People already love this story. You don't need to beat them over the head with the vehicle.

"Moulin Rouge! The Musical" performs at the Paramount Theatre through January 1st, 2023. For tickets or information visit Seattle Theatre Group online at www.STGPresents.org.




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