Monday, August 12, 2019

Moulin Rouge!

If you like splash, “Moulin Rouge!” is the show for you. Even more than the Baz Luhrmann movie, on which the musical is loosely based, it can hold your wonderment without abate from start to finish. Let us begin with the enchanting lighting design.

This superabundance of lights basks in everything from several chandeliers to hundreds or seeming thousands of colored bulbs all over the stage and parts of the auditorium. Also neon lights, chamelioning it up from color to rich color. Justin Townsend outlines the stage in concentric heart-shaped frames of differently colored light, simultaneous or successive, to our irresistibly dazzled delight.

Then take the costumes by veteran Catherine Zuber. They can be seriously beautiful or slaphappily comic, but always helping the wearer to the desiderated character. Like the men in top hats and evening garb, smoking cigars, in various parts of he stage, mostly balconies; or, in diverse configurations, the group of cancan dancers, performing or just oolalaing to heart’s content.

Much of the music that Justin Levine has culled, arranged and orchestrated derives from very smart jukeboxes melodious to begin with. Eight experts assisted Levine in their various capacities, all to good effect.

But what about the book by John Logan, primarily the tragic story of the young, innocent composer, Christian (here an American), in love with Satine, experienced   headliner at the Moulin Rouge and courtesan of a certain age? It is clearly influenced by Alexandre Dumas fils’s truth-inspired drama, “La Dame aux Camelias,” and by what Francesco Maria Piave’s libretto for Verdi’s “La Traviata” made of it.

There are thus also the wealthy Duke of Monroth, Christian’s rival for Satine’s body if not heart, and Harold Zidler. a historic figure, compere for both the show and the nascent show within the show for which Christian is providing the music, and which features the secondary, comic couple of Nini, a dancer,  and Santiago, a Hispanic performer, known as the King of the Tango.

Interwoven throughout is the bevy of girl dancers, largely governed by Toulouse-Lautrec, a patron of the Moulin, painter and cripple, enacted by the gifted Sahr Nigaujah.

Satine marks the return to the stage after a long absence by the wonderful Karen Olivo, who looks never a day older or a bit less convincing than of yore. She manages the role with its inherent self-contradiction with exemplary professionalism and compelling charm. She also carries consummately the choreography of Sonya Tayeh, which is consistently evocative.

As Christian, the youthful Aaron Tveit manages the not all that easy task of making innocence interesting in a penetrating role, and there is steady support   from Danny Burstein as Zidler, Robyn Hurder as Nini, Ricky Rojas as Santiago, and Tam Mutu as an almost too appealing Duke.

The show profits greatly from the long-active designer Derek McLane, whose scenery does admirably by conjuring the Paris of 1899 and the particular ambiance of the Moulin Rouge, keeping the versatile sets from succumbing to sprawl. This is a show to make the young feel mature, and the old blissfully young again.


  1. After I left the Navy, I moved to northwest Jersey to go to college. My parents were living there. What I miss the most about that area are the theater and the food. I went to the city several times and always loved what I saw. The Piano Lesson, Les Parents terribles, Rent, Five Guys Named Moe, Lettice and Lovage, are some of the shows I remember. I went to several Off-Broadway shows, but I don't recall the names. I had a band that played bars in NY too — good times in the early 90s.

    Mistakes made during this writing:
    1) I originally spelled Lettice -- "lettuce."
    2) I originally spelled northwest as "north west."

  2. Just a quick snippet. I've never seen "Scenes From a Marriage" and watching it tonight.

    Off the cuff-a-roony. I want to punch the husband in the face just because of his beard and his face. I need another leading man. Where is Max?

    It's rare for Bergman, but I may be throwing "thumbs down" on this bad-boy. What a tedious film.

    "Persona" is next on the turntable. I know that one. I think things are looking up.

  3. I went back and reread a bunch of my posts. I sounded pretty dumb. I'm funny, at times, but definitely dumb. I also concluded that I wasn't boring, but that I was just dumb. So, I went out and bought, and downloaded, a grammar checker; cost me 75 bucks.

    Now, I noticed lately, that I have better grammar, but I still sound just as dumb. Better grammar didn't help me get smarter. I was shocked. I thought my problem was grammar, but it's really the stuff rolling around in my head. My head has bad ideas, and I do a poor job of forming my (pointless) thoughts onto the paper.

    One of my problems is that I don't organize anything first. I grab the keyboard and start writing. Maybe I should think about what I want to say, formulate my concepts, and THEN put it down. But, that would take effort, and I'm pretty lazy. I have a feeling, anyway, that if I organized everything perfectly, I'd still sound pretty dumb. So what's the point?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hey! Ignore this!

      A word of advice, or non-,
      To Pop:
      Whatever you're doing, or not,
      Don't stop!

  4. Dear, dear Mr. Simon: this is a good piece although I haven't finished it yet, blah blah...Why won't you write about politics? All through your career, you've indicated, at least, that you know pretty well and have some strong opinions on the subject. Do you vote? Do you always make a point of voting? Or are you one of those soft-bodied, Woody Allen-types, who has flops left but doesn't really act on these inclinations or demonstrate them? Not that there's anything wrong with that...I guess, but it's puzzling, especially for a man of your abilities, strong moral, and often political in their own way, convictions in regards to art. I know you don't respond to comments, but if only I could get the slightest hint or indication or sign from above or clue about all of this!!

    1. *Flops left. Not "has flops left", for fuck's sake

    2. Also...the part of this essay I read seems to indicate that Mr. Simon has some appreciation for the Luhrman(n?) film of Moulin Rouge. With all due respect (quite a bit), this is deeply unsettling. I never would have guessed that Mr. Simon draws a line around art and expectations that has any room at all for this frantic, ugly, cacophonous cinematic jizz-fest. Shocking!

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