Red light floods the surrounds of Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, beckoning awaiting audiences inside. They aren’t aware just yet of the spectacle that will befall them. It’s Moulin Rouge!, but nothing like they’ve seen it before.
Many know the story of Baz Lurmahn‘s 2001 rom-com musical. At the turn of the 20th Century in France, the bohemian movement is at odds with the upper middle class, with the former forced to choose between love and survival.
Walking through Capitol theatre, transformed under the production’s Tony Award-winning creative team, you’d swear you were right in Lurhman’s Parisian fever dream. As the ensemble lurks through the aisles and the first few notes of ‘Lady Marmalade’ sound out, the illusion is complete.
Bellowing out a sordid welcome, Simon Burke’s Harold Zilder enthrals the audience from the get-go. The audience are now high-class patrons of the Moulin Rouge. As the narrator, he masterfully perforates the fourth wall throughout with an uplifting earnestness, whilst perfectly embodying the camp theatricality the role demands.
The vividness and viscosity of the textures and colours of the scenes lean precariously off the stage. Everything from the gaudy yet scant-cladding costumes to the bulb-encrusted sets vie for attention. Even a few rows back, one can feel the woosh of air fanned forth from the tulle skirts of the can-can dancers.
Then, whilst you catch your breath, our sparkling diamond Satine, descends from the roof of the theatre. Floating down sumptuously, Alinta Chidzey’s Satine never seems to make contact with the ground. Chidzey is ethereal reimagined; demure and untouchable yet tough as nuts. You see her through Christian’s rose-coloured glasses and their naive love affair doesn’t seem so foolhardy.
Des Flanagan is noticeably younger than Chidzey, but if anything it serves to cement the nature of their relationship. Flanagan embodies Christian’s youthful naivety in a way that’s both scarcely bearable and ultimately heartwrenching. His exasperating innocence is tactfully diluted through a surprising performance of Toulouse-Lautrec by Tim Omaji. Inarguably one of the most earnest and visceral of the night.
The production incorporates songs not just from the original film, but also hits from the 21 years since its release. Shuffling through tracks from Lady Gaga to Lorde in quick succession was overwhelming at times, but so long as you check your ego at the door, you’re bound to be singing along in no time. Almost akin to an extravagant karaoke event, you simply could not help yourself but join in the fun.
The manic raucous of Act I propels an unwitting audience into a truly stirring final chapter. The tightly choreographed numbers set against the glitz of the Moulin Rouge give way to increasingly impassioned renditions as Christian descends into absinthe-fuelled misery. Flanagan comes into his own here, reclaiming both Sia’s overplayed hit ‘Chandelier’ and the musical’s original ‘El Tango de Roxanne’ completely as his own. It was as if his heart was being pulverised before our eyes. No one dared sing along to his anguish.
In an epic finale that releases both protagonists from their suffering, you are reminded once more of the majesty and multiplicity that is Moulin Rouge! The Musical. From utter devastation, the cast slips effortlessly back into whimsy that truly leaves one feeling light and nourished, right down to the soul.
As the bourgeoisie audience of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, you become part of the play and from that cocoon, you emerge revolutionised. This playful, sexy, sensory overload has extended it’s Sydney run until 18th December, so grab you loved ones and rush towards the neon L’Amour sign burning bright in the sky.
Tickets for Moulin Rouge! The Musical are on sale now from the much-anticipated, and strictly limited, Perth season commencing at Crown Theatre in February 2023. Ticketmaster is the only authorised seller.
Tickets for the return Melbourne season of Moulin Rouge! The Musical will go on sale Friday, 29th April 2022 via Ticketek. There is no other authorised reseller.