Tag Archives: Matt Crockett

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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Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

★★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 18th August 2021

★★★★★

 

“simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating.”

 

Midway through “Operation Mincemeat”, the musical from Spitlip, one of the characters quips that ‘you couldn’t write this!’. Based on true events, it embodies the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction adage. However, there is nothing strange about the truth that this show is unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. That reads like the closing tagline of a review, so I’m wondering where I can go from here. On a Musical Development timeline, “Operation Mincemeat” is still a fairly young sapling, having premiered at the New Diorama Theatre only in 2019. They, too, must be asking where they can go from here. Because quite simply put, it’s already there! It’s got it all.

Based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in the Second World War, it tells the story of how two members of the British intelligence service managed to deceive Hitler by (dubiously and possibly illegally) obtaining the corpse of a Welsh tramp who died eating rat poison, dressing him up as an officer, planting false documents in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, and dropping him into the waters off the southern coast of Spain. The following morning it was dredged up by a fisherman. Although Spain was technically neutral, the documents still found their way into German hands. These documents detailed the Allies’ plans to invade Sardinia, when in fact it was Sicily all along. The Germans fell for it hook, line and sinker and, to cut a long story short, the liberation gathered speed. Yes – you couldn’t write it!

Outlandish as it is, SpitLip manage to embellish it further with a goldmine of quirky ideas, characters and scenarios, beautifully and joyously crafted songs, more laughs than you can really handle in one evening and even the odd, serious message thrown in for good measure. The multi rolling, gender-blind ensemble adopt a host of personalities amid a whirlwind of scenes and songs. The score is eclectic, encompassing rap, rock, swing, sea shanties, dance, dubstep, hip-hop and ballads to name a few; with leitmotifs recurring in perfect rhythm to the showstopping numbers that drive the show.

The writing and composing credits are attributed to SpitLip, which comprises David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts. Cumming, Hodgson and Roberts make up the cast joined by Claire-Marie Hall and Jak Malone. I could exceed my wordcount reeling off the individual attributes of each cast member but, in truth, none needs to be singled out. Hagan, the Musical Director, is on keys with Ellen O’Reilly on bass and synth bass and Lewis Jenkins on drums and percussion. It would be a crime not to mention Sherry Coenen’s lighting and Mike Walker’s sound design. This is a show where each ingredient (not forgetting Jenny Arnold’s choreography and Helen Coyston’s costume) blends together to produce the perfect concoction. With parts this great it’s hard for the sum to be greater – but it manages.

The real-life Operation Mincemeat was a success. One that changed the course of history. Although Spitlip’s “Operation Mincemeat” probably won’t change the world, it will make its mark in the world of musicals. Every note, sung or spoken, in this show serves a purpose. Even the throwaway adlibs and asides. I’ve already used up my closing tagline, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat. “Operation Mincemeat” is simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. I wish I had a few more hundred words to play with here, but if you want the detail, just go and see it. It’s unmissable. Did I say that already…?

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Crockett

 


Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse until 18th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
You Are Here | ★★★★ | May 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | June 2021

 

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