Theater Review: MOULIN ROUGE! (North American Tour at SCFTA)

Post image for Theater Review: MOULIN ROUGE! (North American Tour at SCFTA)

by William C. on November 12, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Tours


In 2001, Baz Luhrmann co-wrote and directed the  jukebox musical movie, Moulin Rouge! The film was especially praised for its highly stylized costumes and production values. In 2019, retaining much of the flamboyance and style, the Broadway production adapted by John Logan and directed by Alex Timbers opened, winning 10 Tony Awards. The North American tour just landed in Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa through Nov. 27, and however dazzling the artwork is, Moulin Rouge! is a mixed bag of successes and flops.

This is a story as old as time. Drawing much from Puccini’s opera La Bohème, (which was also used for Rent) and the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice (used for Hadestown), Moulin Rouge! has all the hallmarks of a great Italian tragedy. A love triangle, check. A beautiful, street-smart, and social climbing can-can girl, check. A poor bohemian hero, check. And of course, a rich, handsome and villainous duke, double check.

The story opens in the titular club located in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France during the Belle Époque era. “Sparkling Diamond” Satine (Courtney Reed) — star of Moulin Rouge — conspires with the club’s MC and owner, Harold Zidler (Austin Durant) to lure The Duke of Monroth (David Harris) into financing the struggling club with Satine as the sexual bargaining chip. Due to a gross misunderstanding, Satine mistakenly lures a penniless Ohioan, Christian (Conor Ryan) back to her private dressing room, “The Elephant,” instead of the duke. What follows is a comedy of errors involving Christian and his bohemian brothers, Toulouse-Lautrec (André Ward) and Santiago (Gabe Martinez), Satine and Zidler pitch a new show titled Bohemian Rhapsody to the duke to finance. The duke reluctantly agrees only to the condition that he may see Satine privately — which is what happens.

The entire cast is fantastic. The chemistry between our star-crossed lovers is genuine and playful on stage. Conor Ryan’s voice is especially memorable as he dexterously switches between lyrical and pop singing styles. Austin Durant’s rendition of “Chandelier” haunts me still. Other additional favorite moments are Courtney Reed’s rendition of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks”; the ensemble feature in Lady Gaga medley; and the men-only can-can line with full-on skirt waving

However, the many medleys of genre and time period-jumping songs just do not work for me. Not only is this juxtaposition distracting and lacking narrative purpose, but often the mixing of vocals and instruments don’t segue well. A perfectly balanced ballade gets completely derailed by the rock song that follows. It’s tough to appreciate what I am guessing is a musical equivalent of athleticism. The same thing happened at my niece’s middle-school choir presentation, which was imbued with all the quick witty quotations of pop songs from the ages. (Justin Levine is the music supervisor, co-orchestrator, and arranger.)

On the other hand, the design team is fab. Following Luhrmann’s aesthetics, the production quality is spectacular. Derek McLane‘s gorgeous and massive sets, Catherine Zuber‘s exquisite costumes, and Justin Townsend‘s magical lighting are perfectly compatible, luxurious and fun. The show’s triumph lies with Sonya Tayeh’s thrilling choreography.

It is recommended that patrons attend the show with caution. If you simply wish to be unburdened by life’s woes and stress, and you just want to have a good time, this is for you. The exhilarating design elements alone are enough to bring you joy and distraction. However, if you are looking for great storytelling, this is not it. It’s great fun, but there’s so much going on that doesn’t jibe — it can sometimes feel like you had a car crash with a musical.

photos by Matthew Murphy

Moulin Rouge!
National Tour at Segerstrom Center for Arts
Tues, Weds & Thurs at 7:30p; Sat at 2p & 7:30p; Sun at 1p & 6:30p
Sat, Nov. 19 at 2 is ASL Interpreted, Audio Described & Open Captioned
ends on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022
for tickets call 714.556.2787 or visit SCFTA
for more tour dates and cities, visit MoulinRougeMusical

Leave a Comment