Tag Archives: Baz Luhrmann

Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! The Musical


Piccadilly Theatre

Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Piccadilly Theatre

Reviewed – 20th January 2022



“this would make a really fun proper knees-up sing-along if that’s the direction they wanted to go in”


When Moulin Rouge was released in 2001 it put its very best foot forward with an absolute dream team of Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce, Craig Armstrong, Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo, and Richard Roxburgh to name a few. For goodness sake, even Kylie Minogue featured for a second (“I’m a green fairy!”) Not only that, but it apparently took Luhrmann over two years to gain the rights to the most carefully curated track list, featuring some of the biggest songs of the century. So, with all that in mind, Moulin Rouge: The Musical faces a tremendous amount of pressure. How on earth could you make a version of a Baz Luhrmann production and make it better, even make it just as good?

Filing into the theatre, the staging already promises a lot, with tens of floor-to-ceiling light-encrusted ruby red hearts sitting nestled within one another; an enormous adorned elephant bedecks the royal box, and opposite, the iconic windmill spinning lazily. Emblazoned in bright lights across the front of the stage, ‘MOULIN ROUGE’. As the audience shuffles past one another, holding plastic cups of wine, taking off their giant winter coats and shoving them under their chairs, dancers move in seductive slow-motion across the stage and around the front rows, in encrusted velvet corsets and top hats, crescendoing with two low-key sword swallowers before its even begun. It’s all very alluring, and the first song, ‘Lady Marmalade’ is the perfect smutty number to introduce us properly, filthy-sexy and so much fun.

But as the play unfolds, unfortunately it doesn’t quite keep up, with some songs merely echoing the film’s outrageous performances, and others bizarrely saccharine or, quite frankly, just not good enough.

It’s a strange beast in that it doesn’t quite know what it is. On the one hand, Derek McLane’s gloriously over-the-top, no-holds-barred stage design, and Catherine Zuber’s saucy, sexy, sometimes lurid, sometimes lavish costumes are the stuff of the very highest production value. On the other hand, there’s something disturbingly panto about some of the performances, the leads feel a bit- dare I say it- Disney in their wholesome asexual chemistry, and the additional songs not included in the movie are presented like a sing-along; rather than being cleverly and carefully chosen and then moulded to suit the story’s palette, they seem to clash. In the second half, for example, the morning after Satine has had to break Christian’s heart and pretend she doesn’t love him because otherwise the Duke’s going to have him murdered; it’s a pretty tense and heavy moment. Christian starts singing Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ with all the melodrama of a fourteen-year-old Glee member, and the audience takes their cue and joins in! Not only are they clapping along, they’re bloody singing! At near on the saddest part of the whole story.

That’s not to say there aren’t flashes of flamboyant ecstasy: Clive Carter’s Harold Zidler, despite doing a sort of impression of Jim Broadbent’s performance, is delightfully sinister and scornful, and contributes a slightly different flavour to the complicated character.

The end of the Elephant Medley is pretty spectacular, Satine’s room spinning to reveal a starlit night sky, the Eiffel tower being rolled on by eight extra dancers, and quick sparkling costume changes for both leads as they climb the miniature landmark. Two aerialists spin elegantly from the ceiling as Satine and Christian sing the last high notes together, “How wonderful life is now you’re in the world”, and the chorus stares lovingly on. It’s just so ridiculously excessive, I love it.

I think this would make a really fun proper knees-up sing-along if that’s the direction they wanted to go in; a great night out with the girls, belting ‘Baby you’re a firework’ and ‘Single Ladies’.

Alternatively, it could do what it looks like it should and be properly debaucherous and depraved, and the subject handled with a lot more grit and seriousness. I don’t want to hear Satine saying “I can’t go back to the streets!” and Christian responding with a fatuous “Then come with me to the stars!” Dude, she’s talking about a life of prostitution and homelessness. What are you talking about??


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Matt Crockett


Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Piccadilly Theatre until May 2022




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Strictly Ballroom – 4 Stars


Strictly Ballroom

Piccadilly Theatre

Reviewed – 25th April 2018


“It is enough just to be swept along with its energy and its silliness”


Thirty years ago Baz Luhrmann’s stage play, “Strictly Ballroom”, enjoyed a successful enough run in Sydney to be picked up and transformed into the film that helped make his name and shape his career. Although Luhrmann is still at the helm of the current stage incarnation that pretty much replicates the movie, he has stood back to let it be reinterpreted for the new audience. In the hands of director and choreographer Drew McOnie, some new trimmings are added to the otherwise faithful version of the original. And there’s the rub: this stage production inevitably cannot escape the comparisons (of which there have already been many) to the original film. But that is not the point.

Set in the cut-throat world of small town amateur ballroom dancing, the story focuses on Scott Hastings and his struggle to establish his personal style of dance on his way to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. His steps are not “strictly ballroom”, and in his refusal to follow convention the surmounting obstacles threaten to crush his ambition. Cue ugly duckling, Fran, who is the only one who shares his passion. Totally predictable, it is nevertheless a gloriously magical show, full of the glitz and glamour you expect, but also a complete send up of that exact same glitz and glamour. Being a satire of itself you can forgive the sometimes over-the-top camp delivery and off-target humour.

Overall it is slightly off balance. There are a few too many lows between the highs, and some meaningless musical asides that steer the narrative off course. But these do not phase the cast who are uniformly strong. McOnie’s choreography is second to none which the entire company effortlessly pull off with their impeccable dance skills. Everything about the design is a delight, from Catherine Martin’s colourful and flamboyant costumes to Howard Hudson’s lighting, which make the show a real spectacle. It is a shame, though, that so few of the leads are given the opportunity to sing. Instead, star attraction Will Young monopolises the soundtrack of pop classics as he takes on the role of emcee – a curious device for this show, albeit a crowd pleasing one.

But what truly makes this production are the two leads. Jonny Labey, as Scott Hastings, moves like a panther yet can mix in the camp comedy with ease, and his charisma outshines the sequins on his jacket. Then there is Zizi Strallen who constantly lights up the entire stage. A compelling performer with a natural stage presence, she displays an outstanding talent for dancing and acting. The West End will surely be seeing a lot more of her.

The pair’s onstage chemistry undoubtedly gets you to engage in a production that is otherwise a touch hit and miss. But that may be because it defies categorisation. It is not exactly (deliberate avoidance of the synonym ‘strictly’ there) a musical, yet with plenty of electrifying routines and the powerfully tight sound of the onstage band, we are drawn in and we end up rooting for the characters. Whether or not you have seen the original film, the outcome is plainly obvious. But, as I said, that is not the point. It is enough just to be swept along with its energy and its silliness. Like Scott Hastings’ dance steps, this show flies against convention and should be applauded for that.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson



Strictly Ballroom The Musical


Strictly Ballroom

Piccadilly Theatre until 20th October



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