Welcome to the Moulin Rouge!

The lit stage of Moulin Rouge! at the Orpheum Theater. Moulin Rouge! stayed in San Francisco from September 9 to November 6.

Courtesy of Connor Huard

The lit stage of Moulin Rouge! at the Orpheum Theater. Moulin Rouge! stayed in San Francisco from September 9 to November 6.

     Released over 20 years ago, Baz Luhrmann’s groundbreaking movie musical Moulin Rouge! has finally made its way to a Broadway national tour. 

     Luhrmann, known for directing Elvis and The Great Gatsby, is famous for employing over-the-top and lavish production techniques. Moulin Rouge! starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, and used the colorful chaos of late 19th century Paris as a backdrop for a love story between a writer named Christian and Satine, a courtesan at the grand burlesque showhouse, the “Moulin Rouge.” 

     Nominated for eight Academy awards including Best Picture, the movie was a great success. Moulin Rouge! ushered in a new era of movie musicals that continues to this day. With its bejeweled costumes, wild music, dizzying camera work, and the surreal magic of the Moulin Rouge, the film can accurately be described as a fever dream. 

     However, the movie was truly revolutionary for its use of music from many popular artists. Due to the more tightly regulated music rights of the late 20th century, this had never been accomplished before. From Madonna to Marilyn Monroe, Elton John to Elvis Presley, Moulin Rouge! utilized some of the most famous love songs of all time to create a stunning romance. With such a profound impact on pop culture, the movie set a very high bar for the success of a theatrical version. 

     The stage production is best described in the words of the musical’s Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler himself: “The Moulin Rouge is a state of mind.” 

     Within seconds of entering the theater, the bright, neon red lights, the massive Moulin Rouge sign, and the signature “red mill” transports its audience into an alternate reality. As Zidler and his burlesque dancers, the Diamond Dogs, take the stage, the audience is immediately drawn into the Moulin Rouge, where all one’s desires can come to life. 

     Fans of the movie will find that while the plot of the show is mostly the same, they get a more in-depth background into the supporting characters and their relationships. Characters that are primarily comedic relief in the movie, like the Argentinian bohemian Santiago and the villainous Duke of Monroth, take on more complex roles in the musical. Fans also get new insight into the inner thoughts and backstories of the lead characters, such as the sparkling diamond Satine herself and Toulouse, the French artist.             

     Another notable difference between the film and the stage production is the music. Countless songs have been added to the soundtrack, and audiences will find they recognize the unmistakable songs of Beyoncé, fun., Katy Perry, and many more. However, the musical puts a new spin on many tunes, turning what were once party songs into something more profound. For example, numbers like Katy Perry’s “Firework” and David Bowie’s “Nature Boy” bring the audience to tears with their devastating emotional impact. As Jack Cahill-Lemme, a current swing for the North American tour cast, said, “[the show] really speaks to the power of pop music.” 

     Despite the new additions, the movie’s original songs have been kept the same, specifically “Come What May,” the beloved song of everlasting romance between Christian and Satine. And, with the exception of some new additions, the endearing “Elephant Love Medley” still includes all of its original songs.

     New and old songs alike, the performance is an unforgettable one, and its popularity is growing as it continues its tour across the nation. Students at Monte Vista High School cannot stop talking about the show, with some even going back to see the show a second time.

     “[Moulin Rouge] was one of the best shows I’ve seen, and I hope I can go back again in the future!” Emma Stuart, a Monte Vista sophomore, said. 

     Ultimately, both the stage production and the movie are incredible experiences. While the show may surprise fans, and in some cases it may stray from the movie, as Cahill-Lemme said, “The movie exists and it’s great, but [the musical] is a different thing.”

     Both the movie and the musical version of Moulin Rouge! are nothing short of spectacular. Although the movie was groundbreaking, the musical saw the bar and managed to raise it, winning ten Tony awards and grossing $135.5 million (making it the fifth highest grossing Broadway show of all time).[need conclusion] Moulin Rouge! is definitively one of the most successful theatrical productions in history.