"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Moulin Rouge!"
In the dazzling spectacle now gracing the Emerson Colonial Theatre until August 19, the typical jukebox musical is redefined with possibly the best interpretation yet, by adapting Baz Luhrmann's lavish 2001 film into a no holds barred musical, featuring more recent pop songs than you can count, with the all of the love and madness still intact.
When Christian (the charming Aaron Tveit, who was born for the part) arrives in Paris in 1899 from Ohio, he takes up with Toulouse (the heartbreaking Sahr Ngaujah) and Santiago (Ricky Rojas) and the three of them begin to work on a musical. Christian is tasked with visiting the Moulin Rouge's headliner, Satine (the fiercely talented Karen Olivo), after her performance in order to audition a song for her, in the hopes of having their show produced there.
Satine is no damsel in distress, instead she is embodied more realistically, and is a survivor of the streets who feels at home at the Moulin Rouge in the family the performers create. Satine finds herself caught in a love triangle between Christian and the Duke (brooding romantic Tam Mutu) who could be the only chance of saving the Moulin Rouge. Through the story, we learn the moral depth of each character, including show runner Harold Zidler (Danny Burstein) who occasionally abandons the carnival-esque excitement to show pain underneath as he fights to save the Moulin Rouge and the family within.
Derek McLane's set is the very definition of excess, shifting from the red washed world of the Moulin Rouge to the dark and mean street of Paris. Catherine Zuber's costumes remain faithful to the period while matching the set in terms of extravagance. And of course, a massive amount of praise must be given to Justin Levine, whose music supervision cleverly blends together just about every song you could think of.
The energetic and fast paced first act features standout numbers such as "Lady Marmalade", performed quite incredibly by Robyn Hurder, Holly James, Jacqueline B. Arnold and Jeigh Madjus; and "Shut Up And Dance", which is blended into a medley of love songs for Christian and Satine. The darker second act features numbers such as "Rolling in the Deep", performed as a duet by Olivo and Tveit; and "Shake It Out", lead by Burstein as Harold, in an attempt to return smiles to the faces of La Chocolat (Arnold), Nini (Hurder), Arabia (James), Babydoll (Madjus), and Satine.
Backing up almost every number with their singing and dancing is the incredibly talented ensemble. Every single member is bursting with energy from start to finish as they take Sonya Tayeh's choreography and Alex Timbers' direction to a whole new level.
Moulin Rouge is the perfect balance of visual and auditory spectacle, while creating a story that engages the audience throughout every up and down with music that blows the audience away song after song.