Theatrical version of ‘Moulin Rouge’ exceeds the movie


When “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” showed up on this season’s list of Broadway shows at the Wharton Center, I winced. I had seen the movie version back in 2001 and had a hard time staying awake. What’s the story? Had I been mesmerized by the slowly spinning windmill? 

Never disappointed by a Wharton performance, I kept “Moulin Rouge” in my season selection. And I’m glad I did. The creative atmosphere began even before the show began: Scantily clad courtesans (male and female) cavorted in slow motion, preening for each other while wandering patrons leered. The costumes were lush and provocative, risqué without being obscene.

I watched with anticipation. The windmill on the front of the Paris nightclub was only hinted at. I didn’t see its sails spinning throughout the entire show, which opened with an explosion of bright sounds and colors.

What I saw and heard was a masterful telling of a passionate love story with twists and turns, comedy and pathos, and brightness and darkness. I was amazed at the clarity of the dialog, spoken, shouted and sung. Amazed, I say, because with other musicals, I sometimes guess at what I missed. This story was easy to follow.

The cast included Gabrielle McClinton as Satine, Christian Douglas as Christian, Nick Rashad Burroughs as Toulouse-Lautrec, Robert Petkoff as Harold Zidler, Andrew Brewer as the Duke of Monroth, Sarah Bowden as Nini and Danny Burgos as Santiago. All of them had strong singing voices that did full justice to the dozens of poppy love songs included in whole or in part.

Lines from songs such as “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Material Girl” and “Your Song,” elicited laughs and applause. This is a musical about creating a musical back around 1899. The energetic choreography kept the audience dancing in their seats. Credit the director, credit the cast, credit the entire production team for an outstanding event.

On with the show about Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love. It runs on evenings through April 14, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Some fairly explicit scenes might be considered inappropriate for younger viewers.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

April 10-14

7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

2 p.m. Saturday

1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall

750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing

(517) 432-2000


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