But Still Go See It!
by Hope Guzzle
Based on the Baz Lurhman movie by the same name, Moulin Rouge is a jukebox musical about a love affair between an American writer and a French entertainer, played by Broadway stars Aaron Tviet and Karen Olivio, respectively. The show features mashups of over seventy songs throughout its two hour and forty five minute duration.
If you’ve seen the original movie, you know that it feels like a weird fever dream, and the musical did not shy away from the absurdity and decadence of the source material. As soon as you enter the theater, you feel as if you have been transported to the infamous French night club. The theater is draped in red fabric and teaming with gold accents, as preshow dancers, clowns, and sword-swallowers grace the stage. When the opening number begins, you get a mashup of “Lady Marmalade”/”Hips Don’t Lie”/”So Fresh, So Clean”/”Money (That’s What I Want)”/”Ride Wit Me”/ “Burning Down The House”/”Let’s Dance”/ “You Spin Me Round,” and that’s all done in under eight minutes. To say that I felt a bit overwhelmed at first would be an understatement, but I loved every second of it. The show requires you to suspend your disbelief and accept that you already know the majority of the music, yet once you get used to what the music is, it will quickly captivate you.
The chemistry brought to the stage by Tveit and Olivio is enchanting, and when they are doing a mashup of “Shut Up and Dance,” “Raise Your Class,” and “I Want to Dance With Somebody,” you somehow do not feel like you are watching an episode of Glee, but are watching the beginnings of a beautiful and all-encompassing love story. And while you think you’ve seen the majority of the insanity of the show, as the second act begins the tone changes from lighthearted fun of first love to the pervasive paranoia of forbidden love. This shift is made clear at the top of the act when Tveit’s character, Christian, explains that the rest of the show will make more sense once you accept the madness. The costuming, drama, and music become all the more intense in the second act. Instead of sweet love ballads, songs of lust and danger are sung, and it makes this act even better than the first.
I’ve had the privilege to see this musical twice: once with my grandparents and once with my roommate. Despite these two parties being vastly different in their age, interests, and music preference, they all thoroughly enjoyed this show. My grandparents were fans of the original film and were captivated by the choreography and costuming, but were unfamiliar with the majority of the music. My roommate had never heard of the source material, but was amazed by the love story, the talent, and the use of fairly modern music. I think that this is a musical that anybody can enjoy: whether you are a Broadway connoisseur, a pop music junkie, a Baz Lurhman fanatic, or a Baz Lurhman skeptic, you’ll probably find an aspect of this musical to be enjoyable. And if a mashup of “Only Girl In The World” and “Material Girl” is not enough to get you to buy a ticket, this musical is going to win all the awards, so you might as well see it now so you can show how you’re more cultured than all your friends who have not seen it.