Thursday, 20 January 2022

REVIEW: Moulin Rouge at the Piccadilly Theatre

Walking into the auditorium is a spectacular experience; you are immersed into the world of the Moulin Rouge. Not a single detail is spared in Derek Mclane’s set, with the iconic windmill stage right and the giant elephant head stage right, at eye level in the Royal Circle. The dancers circle around the stage, quite menacingly in slow motion, in anticipation of the show- head to toe in burlesque-themed sparkling outfits, designed by Catherine Zuber. Lady Marmalade starts the show with a bang, the ensembles’ energy uplifting and throws you into the drama of the Moulin Rouge. 

As the club is on the brink of shutting down, the owner Harold Zidler (Clive Carter) must do what it takes with his ‘diamond’ showgirl, Satine (Liisi Lafontaine) to gain investment from the Duke (Simon Bailey). Mistakenly identifying an American tourist named Christian (Jamie Bogyo) for the Duke, Satine spends the night being entertained by Christian and his fellow songwriters, Santiago (Elia Lo Tauro) and Toulous-Lautrec (Jason Pennycooke), who wish to bring their show to Moulin Rouge. When the Duke arrives for his time alone with Satine, he finds the three in a compromising position, of which they improvise their way out of and make an arrangement for the Duke to invest in the show and the venue. Being the seedy man he is, he also takes ‘ownership’ of Satine- who has quickly fallen in love with Christian- whom she has a secret affair with alongside being with the Duke. 

The storyline is dark, but the glitz and glam of the performers keep it fun. Directed by Alex Timbers, the emotions aren’t drawn out of any of the characters enough and, aside from Zidler, there is no desperation or emotion drawn out of the cast when delivering any of the lines. The majority of the acting is unconvincing and there is a distinct lack of chemistry between Christian and Satine, which doesn’t evoke any emotion in the audience at the end of the musical.

Justin Levine’s arrangements are like an acapella mash-up of hits from the 2010s, they’re not relevant and the transitions into the songs are cringey. It all needs some finetuning, so the harmonies are less pitchy. An extraordinary amount of effort has gone into the show, and it has a cast of talented vocalists and dancers- so it’s a shame that it misses the mark. The highlights are the big dance numbers; Bad Romance, Toxic and Roxanne, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. These bring the show alive and would be incredible to watch even without all the bells and whistles of the set and costumes. 

For lovers of the film, this show will hit the spot. For theatre lovers, it misses the beat. 

Review by Hannah Storey

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Royal Circle E17 | Price of Ticket: £150

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