If you're not familiar with the movie (where have you been living?), it's a sort of mash-up of Cabaret, RENT/La Boheme, and other extravagantly doomed love stories. The songwriter Christian (here from Ohio, which I'm fairly certain Ewan McGregor was not) falls in love with Satine, a performer at Paris' famed Moulin Rouge (which opened in 1889 and is still in operation). But the proprietor of the Moulin Rouge has promised her to a wealthy Duke in exchange for the money they need to save it. Lots of high drama ensues, until (spoiler alert), Satine dies of consumption, the beautiful movie disease. But Christian continues to tell their story, so they'll always be together.
Highlights of the show include:
The spectacular set features a rotating windmill and giant elephant in the side boxes of the Orpheum Theatre, framing the concentric giant red hearts onstage, like a valentine's day card that exploded. It makes quite an impression upon entrance to the theater, roving spotlights traveling around the space, and it only gets bigger from there. We also see the city streets of Paris, Satine's dressing room lair, the backstage of the theater, and more as backdrops and set pieces move smoothly on and off stage (scenic design by Derek McLane, lighting design by Justin Townsend).
the cast of Moulin Rouge! (photo by Matthew Murphy)
- The score, played by a powerful ten-piece pit orchestra, is full of all of the movie songs we love, including "Lady Marmalade," "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," "Your Song," "Nature Boy," and "Roxanne." Newly added pop songs from this century include "Firework," "Bad Romance," and "Rolling in the Deep." The characters sometimes communicate in song lines, which is great fun (except when you're left out of the joke because you're not that familiar with pop music). The famous "Elephant Love Medley" starts and ends the same as the movie, with more fun songs added in the middle. A quick count of the credits in the playbill comes in at over 60 different songs used in the show.
Conor Ryan is an appealing Christian, the long-haired wide-eyed hopeless romantic, with a gorgeous voice and an earnestly passionate and physical performance (including some great hair-acting) that covers the full range from the bliss of young love to utter devastation. He's well matched in Courtney Reed's more realistic and world-weary Satine; their soaring duet on "Come What May" (a movie original) is a highlight.
Conor Ryan and Courtney Reed (photo by Matthew Murphy)
- The beautiful, talented, and hard-working ensemble fills out the world of the Moulin Rouge, wearing multiple characters and costumes, and dancing up a storm.
- Speaking of costumes, they're stunning, and primarily of the barely-there variety - corsets and fishnets and the like - but also some beautiful gowns and suits (costume design by Catherine Zuber). The Tony-winning combination of the set, lighting, and costumes provide all of the extravagance and spectacle you'd expect.
- The direction by Alex Timbers and choreography by Sonya Tayeh, both also Tony-winning, combine to create the high drama, comedy, emotions, and movement of the story. The dancing (of course including the can-can) is highly entertaining and impressive to watch.