Broadway in Chicago Presents MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL Review – Striking the Moment in Red

Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
Courtney Reed as Satine

Valentine’s Day has nothing on Moulin Rouge! The Musical when it comes to the color and shape of love. Well, a particular kind of love – at first sight, no holds barred, all about the senses. Brains take a back seat at the Nederlander Theatre where the stage pops with receding heart cutouts. Based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 jukebox film, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is about what strikes you in the moment. 

Striking first is an ensemble of performers slithering slow-mo around Paris’ famed Moulin Rouge cabaret, its iconic windmill in sight. Owner and host Harold Zidler invites his guests – those with peanuts and lager in the gallery and the aristocracy enjoying quail eggs and caviar at the best tables – to indulge their fantasies. According to Zidler, the pinnacle of fantasia is Satine, cabaret artist and “Paris’ greatest courtesan.” Entering on a swing, her neck swathed in jewels and her lips reminding us that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” Satine does not disappoint. 

Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
Conor Ryan as Christian and Courtney Reed as Satine
Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
David Harris as The Duke of Monroth

Bohemians and Aristocrats Compete in MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL

No wonder Christian, a songwriter from Lima, Ohio, who has come to Paris with pulsating ambition and hormones, goes gah-gah. Naïve, shaggy and penniless, Christian strategizes with his bohemian pals to meet Satine privately. He seeks love; Santiago and Toulouse Lautrec seek Zidler’s support for their new show. Not a bad plan except Zidler has already promised Satine to the wealthy Duke of Monroth. The Duke’s got far more money and far better clothes and, by the way, Moulin Rouge is on the verge of financial collapse. 

For those unfamiliar with the Luhrmann film, this is a mash-up musical, the score cobbled from existing songs that emerge in bits and pieces. Snippets from Voulez-vous coucher avec moi and What’s Love Got to Do with It? mingle with more recent pop tunes and Broadway classics. In sync with Moulin Rouge! The Musical’s self-parodying, Christian, Toulouse and Santiago have the conviction of any creative team giving birth to a new musical masterpiece.

Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
Gabe MartÍnez as Santiago and Libby Lloyd as Nini

Broadway in Chicago Brings Extraordinary Visuals and Mesmerizing Dances

Unlike the mashup music, the plot is a single-track melodrama with stock characters who do not deviate from their agendas. For this viewer, the folks onstage know their jobs and get them done with satisfying flair. Courtney Reed (Chicago native and Roosevelt University grad) as Satine is a quadruple threat of singing, dancing, acting and beauty. Andre Ward as Toulouse provides an unexpectedly authentic element. In one visually stunning and musically touching scene, the character expresses feelings more enduring than red hot love. 

A word about Catherine Zuber’s costumes: wow. The designer tells the audience where they are at any given time, whether it’s with striptease attire or rehearsal garb or clothes for the Duke’s Champs Elysees promenade – a pastel study in high society. The outfits seem to meld with the actors’ bodies during each of choreographer Sonya Tayeh’s varied numbers. 

Take away the extraordinary visuals, the hit tunes and the mesmerizing dances, and there’s not much left except melodrama in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. But there are the extraordinary visuals and the hit tunes and the mesmerizing dances. That’s more than enough to make the show a treat – and strike bright red love in the hearts of theatergoers, even if it’s just for one moment.

Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
Adéa Michelle Sessoms and Jennifer Wolfe
Broadway in Chicago MOULIN ROUGE
Conor Ryan as Christian and Courtney Reed as Satine


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Courtney Reed, Conor Ryan, Austin Durant, André Ward, David Harris, Gabe Martínez as Santiago and Libby Lloyd, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, Nicci Claspell, Harper Miles, Andrés Quintero, Adrienne Balducci, Andrew Brewer, Jack Cahill-Lemme, Sam J. Cahn, Darius Crenshaw, Alexander Gil Cruz, Alexa De Barr, Tamrin Goldberg, Alexis Hasbrouck, Jordan Fife Hunt, Justin Keats, Tyler John Logan, Tanisha Moore, Brayden Newby, Kent Overshown, Amy Quanbeck, Adéa Michelle Sessoms, Jenn Stafford, Denzel Tsopnang, Travis Ward-Osborne, Sharrod Williams, Jennifer Wolfe, Ricardo A. Zayas


Alex Timbers (Director), John Logan (Book), Sonya Tayeh (Choreographer), Justine Levine (Music Supervision, Orchestrations & Arrangements), Derek McLane (Set Designer) Catherine Zuber (Costume Designer), Justin Townsend (Lighting Designer), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), David Brian Brown (Wig & Hair Designer), Sarah Cimino (Makeup Designer) and Matt Stine (Music Producer)

Susan Lieberman
Susan Lieberman

About the Author: Susan Lieberman

Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.

Editor's Note: Click here to find more Picture This Post reviews by Susan Lieberman

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