What a wonderful, wonderful show! Opening night of the Brisbane premiere of Moulin Rouge! The Musical was a resounding success! The delighted audience rose to their feet to give a standing ovation.
Kudos to all those who had the privilege of being involved with the staging of this brilliant production. From start to finish, the theatre was a lively feast of fantastic colours, song and dance.
Upon entering the Lyric Theatre at Queensland Performing Arts Centre, we were immediately immersed in the heady atmosphere of the actual, famed, Parisian venue, prior to the production bursting forth into delightful life.
It was pleasing to see the iconic Can Can in the show’s opening scenes before reappearing in the conclusive moments. Jacques Offenbach’s Galop Infernal is probably one of the most recognised pieces of music across our globe. The unique, iconic Can Can never fails to thrill as it kicks on at a frantic pace. (It’s the fastest I’ve ever danced). At the real Moulin Rouge in Paris, I spent the entire evening anticipating it.
The real Moulin Rouge is located in the artsy Montmartre quarter of the French capital and that is the setting for Act I. It’s the societal sector where poor artists like Toulouse-Lautrec hone their abilities, hope for fame and pursue their Bohemian ideals. An intriguing triad is formed when the male protagonist, Christian, joins Lautrec and Santiago on their journey through life.
Des Flanagan was a perfect casting as the lead male protagonist: the young composer from Ohio. I loved the way he could smile disarmingly whilst still singing. Even when attired as per the impoverished status of Christian, Flanagan still exuded the class and talent expected of a leading man in a musical fresh from Broadway.
With all the flamboyance and flair of a circus master, as suggested by his costume, Simon Burke was a wonderful Zidler and central to the unfurling story. Zidler diligently endeavours to save his beloved venue from financial collapse. He combines business acumen with compassion for the physical decline of his leading lady, Satine. Burke nicely managed those sudden accent changes with aplomb.
Star of the establishment, the ‘Sparkling Diamond’, Satine made a dazzling, dramatic entry when she descended from the ceiling clad in a corset and seated on a trapeze. Instantly, she was both a coquettish courtesan and a brightly shining star. A flawless opening night performance from Alinta Chidzey. There was a beautiful blending of her vocals with Flanagan in the duets and she was a powerful soloist and performer in the individual numbers.
The art works of the now famous, Toulouse-Lautrec confirm him both as a talented painter and a regular attendee at the Moulin Rouge. It is there that Satine accidentally meets Christian who is mistaken for the duke she is meant to seduce physically and financially.
Jarrod Draper gave such a convincing performance as Toulouse-Lautrec that I felt strongly supportive of his viewpoints and compassion for his disabled, bespectacled body. Consequently, I was a bit surprised in the encore when he dashed out dancing, all able bodied and not visually impaired.
I absolutely loved the inclusivity and diversity evident in the selection of the spectacular cast in this lavish production, which embraced gender and physical bodily variations as well as race and culture.
The prevailing of talent and internal visionary drive over external phenotypes was clearly messaged. The production itself also highlighted power imbalance and the differentiation of class privilege or poverty.
These elements were strongly evinced in the Champs-Élysées scene and the expensive residence of the rich duke. The sunny park scene with strolling ladies dressed in exquisite pastels and enormous hats was a stark contrast with the smoky, dim interior of the Moulin Rouge.
The jukebox juxtaposition of endless well-known songs clearly delighted the audience. In the context of live theatre as opposed to film, the cast successfully committed to memory and deliciously delivered an enormous word salad.
In the end, Satine departs this life but Christian and Lautrec both realise their potential. Santiago finds sultry and passionate love in the arms of his own showgirl.
At the conclusion of the performance, the audience learned that Baz Luhrmann himself was in attendance. Standing on the stage, he informed us that he had just seen his musical performed in Australia for the first time. Clearly, he was immensely proud of the production.
I highly recommend Moulin Rouge! The Musical as a must see musical and theatrical production.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Lyric Theatre – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Saturday 20 May 2023
Season continues to 27 July 2023
Regent Theatre, Collins Street, Melbourne
Season: 20 August – 24 December 2023
For more information, visit: www.moulinrougemusical.com for details.
Image: Alinta Chidzey as Satine and Des Flanagan as Christian in Moulin Rouge! The Musical – photo by Michelle Grace Hunder
Review: Michele-Rose Boylan