‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’: Review

Now playing in London’s West End at the Piccadilly Theatre, Moulin Rouge! The Musical gives life to Bas Luhrmann’s revolutionary film. And it’s everything you want from a musical about Paris’ renowned entertainment club: debauchery, colour, and most importantly, pleasure. From larger-than-life ensemble performances, bright lights and enough vibrant costumes to fill a circus wagon, Moulin Rouge: The Musical is glorious excess at its finest.

From all the musicals I’ve seen in London’s West end, Moulin Rouge certainly stands out from the rest. With Pretty Woman: The Musical and TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, for instance, I felt as if certain elements were restricted in order to maintain its realism. I’ve never been much of a fan of laid back theatre, admittedly – ‘go big, or go home’, I say. Hence Moulin Rouge was the perfect choice for me! In fact, they almost gave us too much. Each and every scene served to heighten the piece’s position as an elaborate spectacle, in a way that was extremely fitting for its subject matter.

Having said that, at no point did I feel as if the piece lacked emotion. In fact, the equilibrium between energetic vibrancy and psychological depth was consistently maintained. We see this, most especially, with the character Satine, played by Melissa James. A captivating stage presence with deep vulnerabilities, James successfully captured her character’s struggles navigating the theatre industry, and later the upper class circles of Paris. Her final song ‘Your Song Reprise’ carried the emotional intensity of James’ performance to its climax. Her delicate tones, delivered with whimpering vocals in Christian’s (James Muscato) arms was enough to bring tears to viewers’ eyes. Contrasting with the piece’s other, bolder musical numbers, this moment of raw emotion was certainly a hard pill to swallow.

Equally impressive was James Muscato’s Christian, whose performance successfully captured a star-struck, naive man in love. Contrasting with these initial moments of excited passion at the beginning of the piece, Muscato successfully charted his character’s development as he lost his love, Satine, to the Duke. Without giving too much away, Muscato really came into his own in the 2nd act, as his character’s happy-go-lucky joviality fell apart to a desperate man in search for love.

Other notable performances included Matt Rixton’s Harold Zidler, who started and ended the show. Rixton’s performance of the bold Moulin Rouge director was strong, maintaining a delicate balance between melodramatic deliverances, and softer, pathos-filled moments with Satine. On the other end of the spectrum we had Ben Richard’s Duke: the piece’s central antagonist. Oh! he was positively ghastly, but in the best way. His skilful coercion over Satine was compelling, without descending too much into stock villain tropes. Richards’ delivery, whilst supporting the piece’s melodrama, maintained a subtle edge that made him terrifying to watch as a viewer.

Moulin Rouge: The Musical is everything is needs to be, and more. It’s gloriously excessive, and yet packed with raw emotional intensity. Teetering on a delicate balance that keeps viewers captivated for the duration, this is certainly one to watch.

Featured image: Enrique Rios on Pexels

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