REVIEW: Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is every bit the spectacular spectacular we need. I have a tendency to overdo it with these reviews on occasion (there, I said it), but this is a show that doesn’t need paragraphs of exposition and analysis. It’s a bright, loud, gyrating jukebox of musical hits dressed to the hilt in sequins, rhinestones, and the tightest corsets vocal coaches will allow. It’s the perfect escape vehicle, and who doesn’t need a little of that these days?

For those somehow unfamiliar with Baz Luhrman’s 2001 musical feature film on which the show is based, Moulin Rouge! (which is actually based on a 1952 John Huston film of the same name, but without the “!”), is the classic story of a headline performer of a famous but struggling nightclub who meets a poor songwriter while trying to seduce a wealthy count into financing the club. Their love is true, but was never meant to be and ends in tragedy. It’s basically Orpheus and Eurydice, but with all the subtlety of a Vegas showgirl.

The plot, though, is really just the scaffolding upon which the producers hang a dazzling remix of pop songs from the past 60 years, from Marylin Monroe to Madonna to Sting. There’s rarely a number that you don’t already know the words to by heart if you’ve been in earshot of a radio, pretty much ever. Rather than relying solely on the songs from the film, Moulin Rouge! freshens things up by seamlessly working in hits from the past 20 years, from P!nk to Gnarls Barkley and, of course, Lady Gaga. I couldn’t begin to list all of the artists featured in the show, and really, to do so would ruin some of the surprise, as the audience seemed to get a kick of recognizing familiar songs in unfamiliar contexts, so I invite you to discover those clever integrations for yourself.

All of the performers were quite good, with relative newcomer Conor Ryan really stealing the show with some truly remarkable vocals! I would be remiss, though, if I failed to mention the rather significant technical glitch that stalled the show for about 20 minutes during the first act. Something went wrong with Satine’s aerial entrance and workers backstage had to scramble to get things back on track. For a show that lasts close to three hours, it was a significant setback, but of course, performer safety must come first, so it’s good they worked it out, but it definitely broke the spell cast by the opening number. That said, the rest of the show went off without a hitch and by the end, all was forgotten. And really, forgetting anything outside of the moment is the goal of a show like Moulin Rouge!, and there’s no doubt that on that count, it absolutely succeeds!

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis through June 5, 2022. Tickets start at $50.

DEAL ALERT: In-person student and educator rush available for Moulin Rouge! The Musical for Wednesday, May 18 to Sunday, May 22, 2022:
• $30 per ticket — CASH ONLY
• The Orpheum Theatre Box Office will start selling in person at 2 hours prior to curtain
• Students/educators may purchase up to 2 tickets per valid school ID
• Subject to availability

Photo by Matthew Murphy