Melbourne -it’s time to come back to the stage as the theatre-loving town you are! After twenty months of constraint, there is no better way to welcome Paris to the Paris end of the city than with one of the most colourful, awarded musicals seen in decades. Celebrate the reopening of this city of art with multi-Tony Award-winning glamour and decadence.
Global Creatures’ Moulin Rouge does not disappoint. Opulent and exuberant, this is theatrical excess readymade for success. It’s an absolute knockout and that’s not just the leg kicks. Attending this musical is more than just ‘seeing a show’- it’s stepping inside a magical word of professional talent, emotional extremes, love, loss, great music, great dance, visual delights fit to blind, wrapped up in an immersive event you are ever likely to experience in one lifetime.
It’s champagne froth bubbling over the edge of your glass- a one-off experience of decadent pleasure much like stepping out for a night in the bohemia of Paris’ past.
Directed by Alex Timbers, showing exclusively at Melbourne’s classic 1929 Regent Theatre, the set is redolent with the luxe and seductive glamour in which the tale of two lovers takes place. The work both honours Luhrmann’s superbly kitsch film whilst creating its own, standalone masterpiece – winning 10 recent Tony awards for a Broadway production. July 2019 saw Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s romantic genius put the first Australian-produced musical on Broadway.
With a set as beautiful as a jewel box, and with the famous oversized precinct elephant (also depicted in the film), you will feel as if you are truly resident in the 1899 Latin Quarter across the River Seine. Scenic Designer Derek McLance gives you all the scenes direct from the film – the artists’ garret; the Eiffel Tower; the towering ‘red’ Mill; Satine’s top-level boudoir; and a giant pulsating heart-shaped zone coloured in deep reds, purples and pinks reflecting the emotional heart of each plot crescendo. This production’s hallmark is colour-in-overdrive and your mind’s eye will EXPLODE with all the colour as well as emotional highs and lows. Tony Award-winning Lighting Designer Justin Townsend serves up a veritable smorgasboard of orgasmic colour- every shimmer and shade of the rainbow glimmers, glows and explodes on and about the stage
There is so much attention to fine detail with this production-costume, set, luxurious and decadent lighting which goes through all the hues, fine vocal treatment, excellent choreography, as well as all the vim and vigour a band of performers could serve up after months and months on hold. There really is an air in this production of kicking off your blues and throwing aside the past whilst celebrating performance – and performers- with zest and passion.
The plot adheres to the storyline depicted in Lurhmann’s Australian-made 2001 film. Luhrmann’s revolutionary conceit is all about the alternative precinct in which the venue stands- the Left Bank: home of artists, bohemians, flaneurs, decadence seated beside wealth plus all the ‘wrong sorts’. A site for street-walkers, painters, Can-Can dancers, flower girls, and sundry shady people looking to earn a dollar, this show is part-‘hosted’ by famous French Impressionist painter, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. All of these characters are depicted gorgeously in the show with a diverse range of body types, characters and performers which is wonderful to see on the modern stage. The cast are a feast for the eyes and dazzle with their variety of competencies.
The story’s catchcry of Truth! Beauty! Freedom! and Love! lie at the heart of this story-a tale about doomed love. Reminiscent of Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers(doomed) lovers Romeo and Juliet, there is tragedy within the story. The venue’s star performer and glamorous muse Satine, is doomed due to her failing health as well as by her choice of men. The plot also involves a cataclysmic collision of money v and speaks of artists fighting for their existence and the richness they bring into the world.
Lurhmann’s masterwork presents pop songs in a period setting – the show has a song list of reworked covers to die for which will have you and audience members singing along with the cast – featuring the work of artists David Bowie, Nat King Cole, Beck, Bono, Elton John, and sundry pop artists, wrapped into the storyline and suited to each character. The film was famous for it’s ironic repositioning of pop culture as High Art and audiences relish the quips, quotes and lyrical references which also move your booty.
Served up amidst all this are the songs of Le Revolution from a live band, directed by Luke Hunter, thriving under the stage – there is nothing that speaks ‘live theatre’ better than hearing songs sung with live backing. The energy and dynamism of the performers pulses with their assistance.
Tony Award winning Choreographer Sonya Tayeh’s dance moves are a highlight. She showcases both the glamour and the plotline through her cleverly placed and timed moves. Patterning which creates energy and verve as well as emphasising dramatic pzzazz, the cast execute her canny design with all the energy serial lockdowns can percolate. The movement cascades endlessly, like ebullient rows of flowing material on a Can Can skirt, around the perimeter of the dance hall, bubbling over downstage closer to the audience as real cabaret performance does, blurring the line separating ‘public’ with ‘performance’ zones. Intimate two-person cabaret seats are available close to the runways stage front.
Tony Award winner Costume Designer Catherine Zuber’s costumes leave you wanting more- both in fabric and excess. You will drool at the colours, flamboyance and pure excess of rich luxe and decadent. Put onto dancers who sing and dance with reckless abandon, they bring the colour and movement of costuming to life. If you ever wanted to see male dancers Can Can- this is your chance.
Alinta Chidzey and Des Flanagan play the characters Satine and Christian performed by Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor in the original film. Both stalwarts of the stage, they are picture-perfect as romantic leads. Both well regarded musical faces in Australia, Chidzey’s voice takes you to another level with its richness and emotion – you will long to linger in all her sonic moments. Flanagan deftly portrays the sensitive, erstwhile young composer to wanders naively into Satine’s life and centre stage in a duel to the death as two men of very different stations vie for her love and the reputation of the venue.
There is so much to fascinate, move and stun audiences with here- impressive leads, professional dancers and singers, live music, unforgettable set, lighting and costume, a moving storyline, bustling dance scenes; most of all, you will raise your hands to applaud the that wonderful section of society titled: ‘artist’. Without their storytelling, we have nothing to celebrate living or to move us.
Spoil yourself with this once-in-a-lifetime experience to welcome them back! Add this to your Christmas list.
– Sarah Wallace
is the Theatre Specialist for The Plus Ones, Melbourne. A dance and English literature graduate of VCA, UOM and Deakin, she has a flair for bold, non-traditional performance platforms. An active contributor to The Melbourne Shakespeare Society, on the street, or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope.
Moulin Rouge The Musical shows 4 December – April 2022 7/7.30pmTuesday- Saturday at the Regent Theatre (2 hours, 35 minutes with a 20 minute interval). Wed/Friday/Sunday 1pm matinee. Saturday 2/7.30pm. Sunday 3pm
Can Can Table seating available near the stage in pairs.
Purchase tickets here. Accessible ticket available
Images: Courtesy of Michelle Grace Hunder.
Disclaimer: The Plus Ones were the guests of Global Creatures.