Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The musical is based on the famed club of the same name at the foot of the Montmartre hill in Paris, France. Taking place during the Belle Époque in the late 19th century, the story follows Christian (an amazing Christian Douglas), an American who has come to live the Bohemian lifestyle in Paris and falls in love with Moulin Rouge headliner Satine (the lovely Courtney Reed). She, unfortunately, has been promised by proprietor Harold Zidler (a fantastically seedy yet lovable Austin Durant) to the Duke of Monroth (a delightfully devilish Andrew Brewer) in hopes of gaining a patron to keep the club from going under. A love triangle inevitably develops with both Christian and the Duke vying for Satine's love, all told by weaving together popular songs from the past several decades to tell a story of "truth, beauty, freedom, and love."
It would be hard to single out any of the creative designers of the magnificence displayed on the stage; each won a rightful Tony Award for their achievements. And expense does not seem to have been spared to translate the Broadway luxury into a touring production. Director Alex Timbers made a name for himself by creating spectacles on stage, including the last production to grace the DPAC's stage, Beetlejuice, as well as Here Lies Love, the story of former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos, which comes to Broadway this summer. Sonya Tayeh knows how to work the stage with her choreography, mixing classic styles with a modern twist. Derek McLane's scenic design is like a theatrical valentine, which is only enhanced by Justin Townsend's electrifying and dynamic lighting. And Catherine Zuber's costumes are each an exquisite work of art, seeming to make use of almost every type of fabric known to humankind.
The book by John Logan may not have the depth of some of Broadway's greatest musicals, but though it may be predictable, it is still enjoyable storytelling. One could argue that in its cinematic form, Moulin Rouge! ushered in a new kind of jukebox musical, and the stage adaptation takes that concept even further. Audiences laugh with recognition at the smallest phrase from a familiar song that sounds new in this context.
The first act is more upbeat with more high-octane musical moments and the development of the love between the characters of Christian and Satine. The second act does drag a bit in places as the story turns more tragic. But the show delivers the razzle dazzle with a whiz-bang curtain call.
Christian Douglas is the standout in this cast as, well, Christian. As Satine, Courtney Reed (Broadway's original Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin) delivers, though she comes off a bit saccharine without the jaded quality you might expect of her character. Other cast highlights are Austin Durant's Harold Zidler, showcasing his comedic chops as the production's emcee, and Nick Rashad Burroughs, who brings artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to believable and well-rounded life within the short amount of time he has on stage. And no need to fear, the iconic "Lady Marmalade" starts and ends the show, performed stunningly by Nicci Claspell, Libby Lloyd, Harper Miles and Andrés Quintero (Arabia, Nini, La Chocolat, and Baby Doll, respectively).
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is entertaining, fun, and a sheer joy to experience. It may not be the most thought-provoking musical, but it's not meant to be. It simply invites you to forget about the world for a bit and indulge your senses, which can be quite welcoming at times.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical, presented by Truist Broadway, runs through May 14, 2023, at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham NC. For tickets and information, please visit www.dpacnc.com or the Ticket Center at DPAC, or call 919-680-2787. For more information on the tour, visit moulinrougemusical.com/us-tour/home/.
Book: John Logan