Broadway Dallas hosts the touring production at Fair Park Music Hall
Review by Martha Heimberg
Devoted fans of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 Moulin Rouge! movie packed the Music Hall at Fair Park on Friday to see the touring production of Tony Award-winning Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Dressed in sequined coats and glittery tees, they were not disappointed in the joyful, wildly physical performance of the huge high-kicking ensemble and the heartfelt singing of the show’s top-tier stars.
The wildly popular jukebox musical is a touching and funny spoof of its own genre. The music is a patchwork of bits and pieces of nearly a hundred songs (all credited in small print at the end of the program) from Verdi to Elvis, from Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy” to Mick Jagger’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The slicing and dicing of so many melodies and lyrics are an astonishing feat, in itself. The groovy live orchestra is all over it, with every can-can number and swooning ballad.
These sharp, hard-working singers and dancers are spending it every night for two and a half hours, including a burlesque encore that had the audience swaying in place and dancing in the aisles. Really. Choreographer Sonya Tayeh’s blend of traditional can-can, classical ballet and at least a dozen other styles is precise and strenuous, but both male and female ensemble members don’t miss a beat (the tour has its own physical therapist, according to the program credits).
Catherine Zuber’s sumptuous costumes are over-the-top baroque, and Derek McLane’s elegant, evocative set design goes from a grand Paris salon and a posh private boudoir to a dark, gritty street. Justin Townsend’s lighting design is literally brilliant, even blinding at times, with strobe lights, spotlights and charming old-fashioned stage lights.
Like the film, the story follows Christian (romantic tenor Conor Ryan), a starving songwriter from Ohio who comes to Paris at the turn of the century and takes up with a gang of hungry eccentrics striving to be seen and heard. He meets Toulouse-Lautrec (proud, mischievous Nick Rashad Burroughs), dance hall gigolo Santiago (stylish Gabe Martinez ), and dance hall owner Harold Zidler (hilarious, fatherly Austin Durant). Of course, they decide to put on a new show.
Poor Christian falls in love with the dance hall star and many-splendored courtesan Satine, (glamorous, belt-it-out Courtney Reed), who coughs from the start so we know it’s a tragic show that must go on, despite the fact that the theater is broke.
Enter our rich and haughty villain, the Duke of Monroth (sneering, controlling Andrew Brewer), who has the money, but demands Satine in return. Yes, the duke can dance, but he’s just meaner than a junkyard dog (that song is not in the show, but others just as familiar are).
Director Alex Timbers keeps a keen balance between the show’s advertised themes of “truth, beauty, freedom, love”, and sheer spectacle. We care about the lovers, but we also love the terrific energy and creativity driving the sheer spectacle on the stage. Remember that exclamation point in the title? The audience knows that means excitement, and this crowd-pleaser provides plenty of it.
Moulin Rouge The Musical! is onstage at the Music Hall at Fair Park through March 26. For tickets and information, check www.broadway dallas.org or call 214-880-0202.