Moulin Rouge! the Musical, Piccadilly Theatre | Review

Friday, 21 January 2022

Moulin Rouge!
Piccadilly Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 20th January 2022 

The West End premiere of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 musical Moulin Rouge has been a long-awaited adaptation. After a number of delays it has finally opened and is certainly a spectacle to behold. There's razzle-dazzle, glitz and glam and hugely sumptuous chorus numbers, but often it's a case of style over substance, with some moments falling flat.

There is a lot to love with the production; the energy is next level throughout, the variety of performers is wonderful to see and the classic songs from the movies are excellent. Unfortunately, a lot of the new musical additions feel chaotic and detract from the action. Some additions work well such as the updated Elephant Love Medley which combines the old and new incredibly deftly and is joyous as it's performed amongst a starlit backdrop. Adele's Rolling in the Deep combined with Gnarls Barkley's Crazy also sums up the angst and anger in act 2 well and is one of the strongest performances of the show. Many of the other songs are jarring and actually drag us out of the story, making the show feel more like a cabaret presentation or pantomime.

As a visual piece of art, this musical truly is like no other. Derek McLane's set is utterly jaw-dropping from the moment you enter the auditorium. Luscious velvet and fabric drapes the walls and the ceiling, a life size elephant watches over the auditorium and the swirling windmill of the Moulin Rouge gets the motion going from the start.  Glitter and pyrotechnics are also a mile a minute and Catherine Zuber's costumes are a show in themselves. 

The cast mostly do a great job at bringing the iconic cabaret to life. Liisi LaFontaine is beautiful as Satine, especially when she can really let her vocals soar in solo moments. As the young composer Christian, Jamie Bogyo is suitably awkward and charming but occasionally feels like he's holding back vocally. The pair are sweet, but there's something lacking in the chemistry and both characters feels quite underdeveloped. Instead of showing any real emotion, they're used for humour and it's not until the end that we get to see them make any decisions themselves. The only character who really gets to show his emotion is Tolulouse-Lautrec played expertly by Jason Pennycook.

It's in the large group numbers that the musical really excels and gets the audience invested. Sonya Tayeh's choreography is spirited and enticing, especially so in the Tango Roxanne, where Sophie Carmen-Jones and  Elia Lo Tauro command the stage and give outstanding performances. The opening Lady Marmalade number and the closing mega-mix of all the best parts are also stunning showcases for the ensemble who lift the whole show up. The can-can is also particularly impressive and enjoyable to watch.

Whilst the show is lacking in places, it's certainly a spectacle and if you want to be immersed into a wild world then Moulin Rouge is certainly worth a visit. 

photo credit: Matt Crockett