The musical based on the hit film makes for spectacular viewing in the West End.
Is it over the top? Is it jam packed with pop songs? Is it spectacular spectacular? Well yes absolutely – the sheer theatricality of Alex Timbers production is supremely dazzling – while maintaining the heart and soul of the film (based on many ways the opera La Bohème among other influences) makes it into an electrifying experience.
Fo those who have not seen the film, the story follows the developing relationship between courtesan Satine and newly arrived writer/ songwriter Christian in Paris and the personalities found in Moulin Rouge. It is a story of love, jealousy, greed, power and more emotion than perhaps in many ways not seen in the film. But equally it is a show that shows the power that pop music can have in conveying a story.
There is no denying that this is one of the most visually spectacular productions to hit the West End, with Derek McLane’s gorgeously designed set with the power itself to leave many spellbound (particularly impressive given the number of different locations) that pays tribute to the film but adding a new twist that keeps the audience throughly engaged with the story and its characters. To say anymore would deny those going to see it for the first time to be blown away – except to say that the
As with the film, the show relies a lot on the music (although many songs featured differ from the film) to capture the spirit of the characters and drive the show forward – combined with Sonya Tayeh’s choreography – ensures that the whole feel of the show gets the balance of romance of romance and sexy just right. In particular look out for the beautiful way in which the ‘Elephant Love Medley’, ‘Your Song’ and ‘Backstage Romance’ sequences have been staged. Some may find the number of songs featured overwhelming – but each song has clearly been carefully selected to make a certain point about the characters conflicting emotions and that makes it feel very cleverly thought out. It also allows the wonderful ensemble to take stage as well – making it feel like a celebration of theatre in its own exaggerated way.
While the songs and choreography has a suitable sense of theatricality about it that really gives the flair of what the Moulin Rouge is like, the story itself is filled with vulnerability and can be a little bit slim in places. I would have loved to have seen the relationship between all of the characters being developed further.
This does not diminish the joy of the performances though. Liisi LaFontaine as Satine makes her a real character caught in two worlds against her will- captured beautifully in her performance of ‘Firework’ that brings a tear to the eye as does the scene in which the Duke makes her transform her outfit to suit his world showing a loss sense of herself. Elsewhere, making his West End debut as Christian really blossoms as the show goes on showing how the character develops in confidence and power – while his singing is completely hypnotic – particularly his rendition of ‘Come What May’.
But they are more than capably supported by Clive Carter as a more humane – if still desperate Harold Ziddler – his charm and humour captures the audience’s attention from the opening number. Equally impressive is Jason Pennycooke as Toulouse who has a warmth and sincerity that you can’t help but respond to. The whole ensemble as whole are a joy to watch – particularly during the incredibly energetic opening number.
This is something that you will hear a lot of in the coming days – it is ‘Spectacular Spectacular’ and a completely over the top joy to watch. A sexy and romantic addition to the West End.
By Emma Clarendon
Moulin Rouge continues to play at the Piccadilly Theatre. You can book your tickets here.