Tag Archives: John Logan

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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Red – 5 Stars

Grandage

Red

Wyndham’s Theatre

Reviewed – 16th May 2018

★★★★★

“For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster”

 

Almost a decade after its first production at the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Grandage’s production of Red returns to the London stage, this time in the heart of the West End at the Wyndman’s Theatre. The play follows a fictional account of artist Mark Rothko and his newly appointed assistant Ken, between the years 1958 – 59 during the time of a cultural shift within the arts, as the emergence of Pop Art began to slowly push remnants of Expressionism away. One might think that such a story would best suit an audience with a solid foundation of knowledge on 20th century artists, however, the universal themes and overall plot of the play will resonate with anyone with even the remotest interest in the arts.

For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster. The set remains the same throughout, and is accurately based on Rothko’s original studio in New York’s Bowery. Around the studio are various interpretations of Rothko’s paintings, which are moved around by both actors during each transition and placed on the central canvas holder. Each transition, though not always clear, offers a moment for the audience to reflect on the painting in question, almost as if given a quiet moment in a gallery to take in the picture fully.

It is quite remarkable, and a testament to both the actors, Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch, and director Michael Grandage, that there is never a dull moment in the play despite the fact that most of the action could be seen by some as rather mundane. There is incredible attention to detail with the set, with each part of it serving a purpose throughout the play. In every scene we see the actors using the space as artists would; setting up and priming canvases, mixing paint to name a few. The only one thing the audience never sees either Ken or Rothko do, is actually paint. This immense focus on naturalism, as well as the genius of John Logan’s writing, makes Red an incredibly compelling piece of theatre to watch.

From those who frequent the Tate Modern, to those that have never stepped foot in a gallery before, Red highlights the arguments for the importance of the arts in society today. It may even inspire one to revisit forms of art which one may have before deemed as inaccessible.

 

Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Johan Persson

 


Red

Wyndham’s Theatre until 28th July

 

Related
Red Revival at Wyndham’s

 

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