Like the Sparkling Diamond itself, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is dazzling all who visit Melbourne’s Regent Theatre.
Produced by Australia’s own Global Creatures, the show has seen great success on Broadway, taking home 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Costume Design, and Best Scenic Design. After many COVID-induced delays, the Australian production has finally been able to reopen and perform at full capacity, and will run through to April 2022.
From the second you step into the newly refurbished theatre, you are transported into a world of luxury and glamour. Stunning red drapery hangs from a ceiling littered with chandeliers, a 5.1 metre high elephant looming in one of the side boxes, and a replica of the titular theatre’s windmill in the other. It’s otherworldly in the best way, and a perfect escape from the world that sits just outside the front door.
An adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, Moulin Rouge tells the story of young Bohemian poet Christian and his whirlwind love affair with cabaret performer Satine. The stage production expands on the film and adds dozens of new songs, old and new, to create a musical collage spanning decades. Fans of the film need not fret, with the adaptation incorporating “Lady Marmalade”, “Roxanne”, “Your Song”, “Nature Boy”, and original song “Come What May” into the production. At several times, the audience burst into laugher and cheers when they identify the songs being performed (OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” a true highlight), a contagious energy that spreads speedily throughout the venue.
Leading the Australian cast are Alinta Chidzey and Des Flanagan as the fateful lovers Satine and Christian. Alinta is a consummate professional, making the incredibly demanding role seem like a walk in the park. Des, a relative newcomer to the stage, matches this energy and exudes confidence in every moment. The supporting roles of Harold Zidler, Toulouse-Lautrec, Santiago, and The Duke are played by Simon Burke, Tim Omaji, Ryan Gonzalez, and Andrew Cook respectively; all offering fantastic and, at times, sinister performances.
The quartet of Nini (Samantha Dodemaide), La Chocolat (Ruva Ngwenya), Arabia (understudy Kara Sims on the night we attended), and Babydoll (Christopher J Scalzo) command the stage as the Lady Ms throughout the show from start to finish, particularly in the iconic “Lady Marmalade.”
Sonya Tateh’s seductive choreography elevates the show further, with the ensemble displaying an impressive array of dance styles, and even some acrobatics. Every single cast member gives their all, and it shows – the energy levels could burst right through the roof. The ensemble might be some of the hardest working I have seen in recent years.
Something that was delightfully refreshing was the show’s ability to subvert gendered expectations. Throughout the show, there were countless non-binary and fluid expressions of gender through costuming, with the emphasis clearly placed on the performer and their ability rather than their perceived gender – an attitude that should be more all-encompassing in the world of theatre, a place where actors play pretend, and gender is merely a performance.
The musical’s four tenets of Bohemian life are interwoven throughout the entire production: Truth in its faithful adaptation of Baz’s well-loved film; Beauty in the extravagance of Catherine Zuber’s costumes and Derek McLane’s set; Freedom in the combination of cleverly re-orchestrated pop songs narrating a story of 19th century France; and Love shining through the fierce talent of the team on and off stage, empowered by their adoration of the craft and the obstacles they have faced to get to this moment.
No words in the vernacular can describe this great event – you’ll just have to see it for yourself!
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is currently playing at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne.
For tickets and more information, please visit the Moulin Rouge! Website.
Header Image: Alinta Chidzey (Satine) and Des Flanagan (Christian) | Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder