Following delays thanks to the pandemic, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is finally opening its doors in London. Here’s everything we know about its 2021 West End premiere.
In 2001, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman twirled each other around on a giant elephant in Montmartre while singing a mashup of Dolly Parton, David Bowie and Phil Collins songs. Moulin Rouge has since been the favourite musical of anyone who has ever dreamt of living la vie de bohème in Paris. Fans waited 18 long years for the musical theatre adaptation of Satine and Christian’s love story. Now, their tale of freedom, beauty, truth and love – along with its banging soundtrack – has been adapted in a musical stage production.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical debuted on New York’s Broadway in 2019. It was later confirmed that the show would open at the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2021. “After 10 years in development, and following the fantastic response to Moulin Rouge! The Musical in New York, we are thrilled to be sharing this musical with audiences in the UK. We can’t wait to bring the show to London!,” said producer Carmen Pavlovic, Global Creatures at the time.
Alas, the coronavirus pandemic put a delay to its arrival… until now.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical finally has a new premiere date: 12 November 2021 at the Piccadilly Theatre. Fans will be able to get their hands on tickets when they go on sale on Monday 24 May – so put that date in your diary and set an alarm on your phone, because they absolutely will be snapped up very quickly.
To get you in the mood for something so exciting the audience will stomp and cheer, let’s take a look at what to expect from the musical production of this beloved film.
Everything we know about Moulin Rouge! The Musical
To recap: the original Moulin Rouge is the story of penniless, romantic writer, Christian, who falls in love with the club’s “sparkling diamond” Satine in 19th century Paris. But Satine is a courtesan, and she is instructed by the notorious nightclub’s owner, Harold Zidler, to maintain a relationship with the patron, The Duke, in order to secure the finances for its transformation into a theatre. This, obviously, means that Christian and Satine’s relationship meets a bleak end.
Moulin Rouge director Baz Lurhman penned a letter explaining his decision to hand over the stage adaptation to Alex Timbers. “I feared I might be inclined to protect every choice that was made in the original work as if it were somehow sacred, but that’s the antithesis of at,” he wrote. “Any good story needs to be interpreted in different places, in different ways, for different times. Recoded, if you like. So I made the conscious decision to hand the work over and, instead of being the birther, to become something of an uncle to the project.”
He then explained how the plot has been slightly rearranged and new songs have been added to the score.
The songs are, arguably, the best thing about Moulin Rouge. The score reworks pop hits into sing-along works of genius, including Your Song, Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and Lady Marmalade. Original song Come What May was also written for the film. Fans will be happy to hear that many of the hits still appear on the show’s 70-song strong score, but Satine’s One Day I’ll Fly Away solo has been cut (boo! hiss!). There are also a few contemporary updates.
Musical additions to the Moulin Rouge! stage show include:
Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
So Fresh, So Clean - OutKast
Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
We Are Young -FUN
Single Ladies - Beyonce
Shut Up And Dance - Walk The Moon
I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) - Whitney Houston
Sympathy For The Devil/You Can’t Always Get What You Want/Gimme Shelter -The Rolling Stones
Don’t Speak - No Doubt
You can listen to the Moulin Rouge! The Musical soundtrack here.
The Broadway cast
In the Broadway case, Satine is played by Tony Award-winning actor Karen Olivo, who has previously starred in In The Heights and West Side Story. “Satine is the story of most women in our business,” she recently told Variety. “We’re most of the time objectified; we’re usually used for what we look like or what people will feel when they look at us.”
Aaron Tveit, who you might recognise as Tripp van der Bilt from Gossip Girl, is Christian. “I’ve been such a fan of this story since the movie came out, and to be the one to welcome people into this story every night is a very special thing, and I try to treat it with as much care and effort and work as I can because of that,” he told Variety.
It is not yet known who will be cast in the London production. Through the pandemic, the production process has progressed wherever possible, including holding auditions for the UK cast. Alex told British Theatre: “The last 12 months have proven uniquely challenging in engaging with performers as we look to cast the UK production. Nevertheless we have all been astounded by the perseverance and sheer talent of those we have seen, and I am excited to see the cast coming together.”
So, what did the critics have to say about the New York production? The reviews are mixed, but it sounds like true fans of the film won’t be disappointed.
Mark Shenton from New York Theatre Guide described the show as being “a canvas of spectacle and emotion that isn’t just a floorshow but left me floored with its sublime artistry”.
The Guardian’s Alexis Soloski said it was a “glitzy, silly stage version” that “doesn’t have much of a plot but it glides thanks to its infectious energy”.
Diane Snyder from The Telegraph commented on the show’s dazzling costumes and dancing, writing: “Choreographer Sonya Tayeh gives the bustling ensemble, awash in a rainbow of colours from costume designer Catherine Zuber, exhilarating, sexy dances — from cancan and tango to modern.”
The New york Post’s Johnny Oleksinksi described it as being a “raucous sensory overload” - in a very good way.
And Brittany Spanos from Rolling Stone said the musical version “comes close to matching” the film but “gets lost in the excess, like the absinthe Christian consumes”.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical tickets: When? Where? How much?
Tickets for the London production go on sale on 24 May and you can sign up to the official Moulin Rouge! website newsletter to make sure you receive a reminder email. Tickets prices are not yet known.
Quite simply, it will be spectacular spectacular.