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Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre | Review

If the audience were to be exposed to full versions of the seventy-four songs listed in the programme, it would be a very long show indeed. I suppose patrons would get their money’s worth.

Liisi LaFontaine and Jamie Bogyo. Photo by Jay Brooks.
Liisi LaFontaine and Jamie Bogyo. Photo by Jay Brooks.

The merging of several songs into one scene is insufferable – with every change of tune, of course, comes a change of melody, and sometimes a change of key. Keep up, if you can. People with an affinity with chart music will find much to enjoy – and recognise – in this broad and energetic roster of largely feel-good tunes. At the same time, the songs are quite cleverly spliced together. The medleys are not, thankfully, everywhere in the show, and there are full numbers to enjoy.

The full numbers are, in a word, a paradox: the stage often becomes very busy, with all the glitz and glamour that one might expect from a grandly staged West End musical. The storyline, however, comes to a complete standstill, and while there’s a lot to look at (the costumes are very easy on the eyes, for instance), it would appear the production is banking on a feast, or indeed an assault, on one’s senses being sufficient to see one through until such time as the narrative resumes.

Even people like me who have never had an extensive knowledge of chart music over the years will find a lot of recognisable tunes here. But there’s a musical theatre quality added to songs like ‘Bad Romance’ and ‘Chandelier’ (nothing to do with The Phantom of the Opera), sung as they are here with passion and commitment. Clive Carter as Harold Zidler has a good stage presence, though it becomes evident the character’s bombastic rapport with his audiences at the Moulin Rouge doesn’t mean he can balance the books of his Parisian venue without assistance from a questionable source.

That his show is set in Paris is only evident from the smattering of French occasionally spoken on stage, as well as Toulouse-Lautrec (Jason Pennycooke) – yep, that’s the character’s name, which makes as much sense to me as calling someone Berwick-upon-Tweed, but there it is – who pretty much does what he did as Lafayette in Hamilton in terms of putting on a convincing French accent.

As the character does not walk unaided, the audience is denied the pleasure of Pennycooke’s substantial dancing abilities – until the very end of the show, that is – when, in keeping with jukebox musicals with a forced feelgood factor, anyone and everyone joins in one more round of songs.

The central characters here are Christian (Jamie Bogyo) and Satine (Liisi LaFontaine). The former is a writer from Ohio, who tells the audience the show will make considerably more sense if patrons cast their minds back to their first love affair, and the heightened emotions that arose from that. The latter is the star performer at the Moulin Rouge, though there’s a reason, given in the narrative, why her performances aren’t always consistently mind-blowing from start to finish. It’s not an easy act to pull off convincingly, if only because actors strive to get it right – LaFontaine not only does it well, but makes it look relatively easy.

Before the show starts there are gyrations and movements on a set that is admittedly impressive, and in the stalls, some cabaret tables are set up. The stage extends into the audience, such that patrons in the very front row find themselves frequently swivelling round (on non-swivel chairs, I hasten to add), and there’s so much to take in as far as the staging is concerned that one is better off sitting further back.

It’s escapism of the highest order, playing to the gallery as it does with little (if any) subtlety. The plot may be rather insubstantial but at the end of the day, it’s fun, and just the tonic after all those difficult months in which the theatres were closed. Go to let your hair down and let proceedings wash over you. Don’t go expecting depth, nuance or a profound storyline.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Enter a world of splendor and romance, of eye-popping excess, of glitz, grandeur and glory! A world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows and revel in electrifying enchantment. Pop the champagne and prepare for the spectacular spectacular…

Welcome to Moulin Rouge! The Musical!
Baz Luhrmann’s revolutionary film comes to life onstage, remixed in a new musical mash-up extravaganza. A theatrical celebration of truth, beauty, freedom and — above all — love, Moulin Rouge! is more than a musical; it is a state of mind.

CAST
Liisi LaFontaine – Satine
Jamie Bogyo – Christian
Clive Carter – Harold Zidler
Jason Pennycooke – Toulouse-Lautrec
Simon Bailey – The Duke
Elia Lo Tauro – Santiago
Sophie Carmen Jones – Nini
Zoe Birkett – Arabia
Johnny Bishop – Baby Doll
Timmika Ramsay – La Chocolat
Tanisha Spring – Alternate Satine
Femi Akinfolarin – Ensemble
Robson Broad – Ensemble
Ian Carlyle – Ensemble
Jonathan Cordin – Ensemble
Anthony Cragg – Ensemble
Fletcher Dobinson – Swing
Katie Ella Dunsden – Ensemble
Adam Gillian – Walking Cover Christian
Luke Jackson – Ensemble
Tamsin January – Swing
Alicia Mencía – Swing
Ciro Lourencio Meulens – Ensemble
Georgia Morgan – Swing
Melissa Nettleford – Ensemble
Ian Oswald – Swing / Dance Captain
Craig Ryder – Ensemble
Ebby Sama – Swing
Elly Shaw – Swing
Tinovimbanashe Sibanda – Ensemble
Katie Singh – Ensemble
Ope Sowande – Swing
Toyan Thomas-Browne – Ensemble
Amy Thornton – Ensemble / Assistant Dance Captain
Misty May Tindall – Swing
Jon Tsouras – Walking Cover Santiago / The Duke
Tommy Wade-Smith – Swing
Lily Wang – Ensemble

CREATIVE
BOOK – John Logan
DIRECTOR – Alex Timbers
CHOREOGRAPHER – Sonya Tayeh
MUSIC SUPERVISOR, ORCHESTRATOR, ARRANGEMENTS, & ADDITIONAL LYRICS – Justin Levine
SCENIC DESIGNER – Derek McLane
COSTUME DESIGNER – Catherine Zuber
LIGHTING DESIGNER – Justin Townsend
SOUND DESIGNER – Peter Hylenski
HAIR AND WIG DESIGNER – David Brian Brown
MAKE-UP DESIGNER – Sarah Cimino

PICCADILLY THEATRE
16 Denman Street
London, W1D 7DY

SEASON DATES
Booking through until Saturday 28 May 2022

PERFORMANCE TIMES
Monday – Saturday 7:30pm
Wednesday & Saturday matinees 2:30pm

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