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Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Book by John Logan, based on the film directed by Baz Luhrmann
Piccadilly Theatre
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Jamie Bogyo and Liisi LaFontaine Credit: Matt Crockett
The Cast of Moulin Rouge! The Musical Credit: Matt Crockett
Clive Carter, Jamie Bogyo, Elia Lo Tauro and Jason Pennycooke Credit: Johan Personn

The Moulin Rouge, a nightclub in Montmartre, founded in 1889, synonymous with La Belle Epoque, was made famous by the can-can and the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec. It was a place where aristocrats, Bohemians, boulevardiers and reprobates could freely slum together and see such stars as La Goulue, Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert and Valentin le Désossé.

There have been three films: the first in 1952, Moulin Rouge, was directed by John Huston; the second in 1954, French Can-Can, was directed by Jean Renoir. It is the third and multi-award-winning film, directed by Baz Luhrmann, with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in 2001, which has been turned into an extravagant and spectacular Broadway musical and is playing simultaneously in New York, Melbourne and London.

The musical is directed by Alex Timbers, choreographed by Sonya Tayeh and lit by Justin Townsend. Derek McLane designed the scenery. Catherine Zuber designed the costumes.

In the same way that The Playhouse has been converted into the Kit Kat Club, so has The Piccadilly Theatre been transformed into a glitzy and very opulent Moulin Rouge with chandeliers, windmill and blue elephant.

The musical, which is described as a musical mash-up extravaganza, comprises 75 songs which are credited to 165 songwriters and represent 160 years of music. The book is by John Logan.

Christian (Jamie Bogyo, making his West End debut), a gauche and penniless American songwriter, falls in love with Satine (Liisi LaFontaine), the tubercular star singer; but she is already beholden to the Duke of Monroth (Simon Bailey), without whose wealthy patronage the Moulin Rouge cannot survive financially.

The stage is dominated by Harold Zidler, the decadent impresario and host of the Moulin Rouge, a wonderfully louche characterisation by Clive Carter. Toulouse-Lautrec is played by scene-stealer supreme Jason Pennycooke. Elia Lo Tauro is cast as Santiago, the great tango dancer.

The show is notable for its lavish spectacle and for its raucous energetic dance numbers; and the biggest dance number of all is saved for the curtain-call.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch