“Moulin Rouge!” Extravaganza at Aronoff

Review by Liz Eichler

One word to describe North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical? The playbill says: Truth. Beauty. Freedom. Love. Various audience responses: Extravagant. Opulence. Fantastic. Spectacle. Hallucinogenic. IYKYK. I love a good spectacle, and I recommend you lose yourself in this extravagant, exuberant, opulent production with awesome vocal and physical athletics. Moulin Rouge! is part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series presented at the Aronoff through June 4, 2023.

The Story of Moulin Rouge!

The story is similar to the 2001 Twentieth Century Studios motion picture, in which a young man comes to Paris in 1899 to seek his song-writing fortune, meets the bro squad to help him, falls in love with the star performer at the Parisian Club (the Moulin Rouge) who has obligations to another. No spoiler on how it ends.

The story is told in modern songs, some from the movie, others are new. Song mashups include “Ruler,” “Shut Up and Dance With Me,” “Fireworks,” “Your Song” and every take on the word “Love.” The show is a lot like musical theatre folk playing the game “Encore” – and they all are clearly having fun.

Directed by Alex Timbers, the three hour show moves quickly. John Logan’s Book, and Music by Justine Levine pack it full. Sonya Tayeh’s choreography tells the story in movement as current and powerful as the music.

John Cardoza as Christian and Courtney Reed as Satine in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Photo by Matthew Murphy 

The Cast

The key performers are fantastic, as is the whole large cast. Courtney Reed as Satine is a beautiful vocalist as well as performer. John Cardoza as Christian is charming and passionate. Austin Durant as Harold Zidler owns the space and a lot of laughs. Nick Rashad Burroughs as Toulouse-Lautrec needs more time on stage–the audience loves him!  It is hard to not like Andrew Brewer who plays the heavy, the Duke of Monroth, who is also pursuing Satine. Show-stealer Libby Lloyd, is Nina the blonde dancer, Who.Can.Dance.Wow. Gabe Martinez as Santiago, her dance partner and part of the bro squad, is suave and funny. 

Gabe Martinez and Libby Lloyd in North American Tour of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The Production Team

The set, designed by Derek McLane transports you to Paris. It is Sumptuous. Opulent. Full of hearts edged with ornate metalwork. My favorite scenery moment (out of a lot of great things) is when the set is turned around and blends into the starry night. 

Costumes by the award-winning Catherine Zuber are luscious neon jewel-tones. Lots of bedazzling sparkle and yards and yards of can-can fabric. The fishnets on the dancers are unique, as are the skimpy bodysuits highlighting the athleticism of these performers. The rich embellishments on the costumes are echoed by the embellishments on the scenery. 

The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, photo by Matthew Murphy 

Justin Townsend’s lighting balances concert and intimacy with a great foray into a green absinthe dream.

No problem hearing the cast, with well balanced Sound Design by Peter Hylenski. The live orchestra, conducted by Andrew Graham, fluidly blends one mashup into the next. 

Bottom Line

Moulin Rouge! makes a great date night, girls night, or just a great night at the theatre where your eyes and ears are in for a feast. And in true “Wait! There’s More!” don’t leave before the curtain call! It’s an extravaganza of its own. 

Get Tickets to Moulin Rouge!

Get your tickets today at https://www.cincinnatiarts.org/, the official source for all Aronoff tickets. 

 The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Photo by Matthew Murphy.