Review: ‘Moulin Rouge!’ Is a Spectacular Spectacle

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Al Hirschfeld Theater before a performance of “Moulin Rouge!” Photo by Evan Michaeli ’24.

As I walked through the golden doors of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, my eyes were met with a spectacle I have never experienced before.

I marveled at the purple life-sized elephant to the red windmill, blades turning with yellow flashing lights, and the several chandeliers that hung from the red draped ceiling. And how can I forget the blazing sign that read ‘Moulin Rouge’ in bright red? 

Moulin Rouge! is based on Baz Luhrmann’s movie which came out in 2001. The musical takes place in the opulent nightclub Moulin Rouge in Paris in 1899.

The New York Theater Guide describes the plot as, “The story follows an aspiring American writer and composer named Christian (Aaron Tveit), who has landed in Paris in search of inspiration. He finds it in the form of Satine (Natalie Mendonza), a beautiful courtesan, working as “the sparkling diamond.” 

New York Theater Guide continues, “Their blossoming romance is forced behind closed doors to become a secret love affair, as the club’s Master of Ceremonies, Harold Zidler (Eric Anderson), promises Satine to the rich, jealous, and controlling Duke of Monroth (Tam Mutu)…” In return, the Duke gives money to the club and invests in a production written by Christian. 

Uniquely, Moulin Rouge! is a jukebox musical, which means it uses pre-existing songs. The movie uses this format too. 

I marveled at the purple life-sized elephant to the red windmill, blades turning with yellow flashing lights, and the several chandeliers that hung from the red draped ceiling. And how can I forget the blazing sign that read ‘Moulin Rouge’ in bright red?”

The playlist includes upwards of 70 songs. Some titles used are Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and Walk the Moon’s hit “Shut Up and Dance.”

However, in a twist, the music is remixed. For example, the song ‘Crazy Rolling’ makes use of ‘Rolling in the Deep’ but also ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley. The remixing is the pride of the show, the last song of the first half, ‘Elephant Love Medley’ comprises twenty-seven songs alone! 

There is no doubt that Moulin Rouge! provides entertainment. The show took home ten Tony Awards in 2021, including the best musical. The blaze of movement on stage is incredible.  

The choreography by Sonya Tayeh implements an array of dances. One could expect to see the staple of Moulin Rouge, the can-can to jazz. 

The production also uses the set to its advantage employing five set changes, including scenes in Champs-Élysées with a canvas painting, Moulin Rouge with the flashy sign, and the elephant room with a view out to the Eiffel Tower with the French word for love, L’amour. 

Not only is the set design beautiful, but the show uses auxiliary effects as well. In the first song, “Welcome to Moulin Rouge,” Zidler’s cane spurts out confetti on the audience. Later in the song, sparklers shoot into the air with more confetti raining down on the audience. 

The show is packed with special effects including the “sparkling diamond” of Satine. Satine is the showstopper at the nightclub and the swing that Satine comes down on periodically during the show only reinforces the image.  

All in all, I recommend seeing Moulin Rouge! if you are looking for a show that has a main point to entertain. The hit-filled playlist will surely bring joy to your afternoon or evening.