Spectacular, spectacular, spectacular… it’s not just what I heard but what I saw when I attended the recently opened Moulin Rouge at what used to be the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Make no mistake, you are walking into the Moulin Rouge when you arrive. They have done an amazing job of transporting you as soon as you step through the door. Retina burn red neon glows like a NO VACANCY sign in the middle of nowhere, gilded dance cages occupied by promiscuously attired dancers of no particular persuasion frame the proscenium, chain smoking cast members meander and strut about to slowly hypnotize and draw you into hypnotic slumber only to jar you awake with the bombastic first number.
Yes this Moulin Rouge musical is based on the Baz Luhrman film of the same name, but it is only same in structure. Much of the meat of the story has been transformed for the stage production including some story elements and characters. The Duke (Tam Mutu) is played less Snidely Whiplash but more menacing and intimidating. Christian (Aaron Tveit), is an American songwriter from Ohio rather than a writer from London. The true Diamond of the show though is Karen Olivo playing Satine. The character of Satine is relatively the same background-wise, but portrayed by Ms Olivo, at times she comes across as a strong “Woman Hear Me Roar” presence while at others displays a pure sensitivity and fragility. Then there is Ziegler (Danny Bernstein) equal parts Emcee and “Mama” Morton practically chewing up the scenery to include the audience, but in a good way. You will also notice some song additions and subtractions. The subtractions probably have more to do with rights than story but the new stuff while at times seemed silly in the long run worked for me just fine.
There has to be special mention to the gorgeous and seamless set design by Derek McLane. The details and beauty of the set cannot be overstated. Same goes for the costume design by Catherine Zuber. Sitting in the Can Can seats one gets up close looks at both and you get to truly appreciate great art at work.
About those Can Can seats...love the interactivity with the cast and being so close, to a point. Be prepared to spin your head around multiple times to try to catch what is going on. These “Can Can” seats are located in two separate sections surrounded but below the stage so you are always looking up. It helps to stretch before the show. Perhaps a special themed cocktail might make it more enticing but I probably would not sit there again. You are literally looking straight up as Satine descends on entrances. I believe your best views would be Orchestra Center 5th Row and back.
One more thing I want to say is that I love the fact that you are not shunned for taking pictures pre-curtain. These guys get it, it’s free advertising for the show and a way to show off the set. Now of course you can not use flash and once the curtain goes up away go the phones and cameras but you still get plenty of time for pictures.
I recommend this show to anyone that is a fan of the movie or a lover of musical theater. It is a very well polished show with immediate story and music recognition for a wide variety of audiences.