Moulin Rouge - Piccadilly Theatre - Review
Please note the photos in this review are of the original cast, not the current cast
It’s one of the hottest tickets in town, and perhaps one of the most talked about shows around. The theatre has had a massive makeover and the audiences continue to flock over a year after opening. This is Moulin Rouge, the musical, the spectacle, the experience; and I’m not over exaggerating when I say that there really isn’t anything else like it. You may shake your head and simply call it yet another jukebox musical, and if you want to give it some sort of title, I guess you can call it that, but hold on, Moulin Rouge is so much more than that.
Moulin Rouge the musical, based on the film of the same name, tells the story of Christian (Jamie Muscato), a young American composer who travels to Paris to embrace the bohemian lifestyle. There he meets Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (Ian Carlyle) and Santiago (Elia Lo Touro) who, upon realising his talents and bringing him into their show writing team, take him to the famous Moulin Rouge, hoping to put on their show there. But the club is struggling, and manager Harold Zidler (Matt Rixon) hopes that setting up his star performer Satine (played at this performance by Melissa James) with the incredibly wealthy Duke (played by Ben Richards) will save the day. If only things were that simple. A case of mistaken identity leads to Satine, the sparkling diamond, meeting Christian first and when their romance takes off, the lines between fiction and reality are blurred and not only the Moulin Rouge is at risk.
Jamie Muscato’s Christian is a complicated character, hit with huge highs and monumental lows. He is incredibly driven, passionate about his music and his show, with that passion only surpassed by what he feels for Satine. He is a character who is governed by his emotions, with Muscato giving him a heart whilst impressing greatly with his powerful vocals, especially in his rendition of ‘Roxanne’. As Satine, Melissa James is every part the sparkling diamond, oozing glamour and flair at every moment. Much like Christian, she is faced with numerous challenges, and this is a character that you can really feel for.
Ian Carlyle’s Toulouse-Lautrec could be seen as half of a comedy double act with Lo Touro’s Santiago, but there is a much deeper side to him. He has his troubled, his past life and the life he has painted for himself, and his relationships with both Christian and Satine is touching, with a sense of true care. He still has his funny side, with his performance of ‘Freedom, Beauty, Truth, Love’ creating a fun atmosphere alongside Muscato and Lo Touro. As Santiago, Lo Touro impresses greatly, partnered with Amy Thornton’s Nini is the showstopping ‘Bad Romance’ number.
As a whole, ‘Moulin Rouge’ is exceptionally high energy. The opening numbers of both acts are knockouts, bombarding the audience with huge song medleys with so much dancing going on that sometimes you just don’t know where to look. The talented ensemble speed on and off, playing Moulin Rouge dancers one minute then members of high society the next.
Features countless hit songs from some very big music names, from Sia and Lady Gaga to Katy Perry and Elton John, ‘Moulin Rouge’ takes the idea of a jukebox musical and supercharges it. Whilst I’ll be honest and say that if you are hoping to hear these songs sung in full, you may be disappointed, as many of them are expertly sandwiched into a multitude of medleys, all of which will leave you humming. The cast expertly skip from song to song, often partnered with high energy dance numbers. With the show featuring so many well-known songs, and with them being used in such a way, there is often laughter from the audience when the numbers begin, not in a bad way, more of a laughter of realisation, as if saying ‘oh that’s clever, how they’ve managed to fit that one in’.
From the moment you walk into the auditorium, this production is an assault on the senses. The performance space itself has been transformed into the moulin rouge, draped in red silk and lights from the stalls to the grand circle. An elephant in one box and the famous red windmill in another, it’s an experience in itself. The show begins with a glamourous preshow, burlesque style dancers and well-dressed gentleman strutting across the stage to set the scene. Long story, short, from the moment you enter the piccadilly theatre to the moment that you leave, you are in the world of the Moulin Rouge.
If you love a jukebox musical, and a story that weaves drama, romance, and scandal together, then you’ll love Moulin Rouge. It is crammed full of hit songs and impressive performances, and whilst at times it may feel that the music is given more of a chance to shine than the story is, you have to step back and accept, this isn’t a show as such, this is an immersive experience that drags you in and sends you out into the night with a tune in your head and a smile on your face.