Enter the world of Moulin Rouge!

Christian Douglas as Christian with Gabrielle Clinton as Satine in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

By Oline H. Cogdill

Moulin Rouge! may be the ultimate mash-up musical. This high-energy production, enjoying rousing performances though March 17 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, certainly qualifies as a jukebox musical with its some 70 songs.

Yep, 70.

Don’t even try to count ta6hem, there’ll be more on that later.

Moulin Rouge! also is a mash up of Cabaret and Carmen, with a bit of The Wild Party as well as La Traviata and La Bohème, or Rent if you must, thrown in.

Robert Petkoff as Harold Zidler in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Most of all, Moulin Rouge! is an uber-sexy, highly entertaining musical that starts strong and keeps its vibrancy until the final seconds of the ovation. And, please, don’t leave during the curtain call as too many people did, missing those last enjoyable moments. (Really, you don’t have to be in such a rush. You paid for your ticket, get your money’s worth.)

Gabrielle Clinton as Satine and in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Moulin Rouge! the musical is based on the 2001 film Moulin Rouge! (oh, those exclamation points!) starring Nichole Kidman, directed by Baz Luhrmann and written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. The musical premiered in July 2018 in Boston, moving to Broadway during June 2019. During the 74th Tony Awards, Moulin Rouge! received 14 nominations and won 10 awards, including best musical.

The musical is still going strong on Broadway and on its Broadway Across America tour, currently at the Broward Center.

Set in fin de siècle (a phrase I have always wanted to use!) Paris, “Moulin Rouge!” is a love story, a tale of people on the fringe of society and about a business barely scraping by.

The nightclub Moulin Rouge is run by master of ceremonies Harold Zidler (Broadway veteran Robert Petkoff who is obviously having a great time). He starts the musical with “Welcome, you gorgeous collection of reprobates and rascals, artistes and arrivistes, soubrettes and sodomites. No matter your sin, you are welcome here.” And that sets the tone of this very adult musical.

Gabrielle Clinton as Satine and cast in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

The star of Zidler’s nightclub is chanteuse and sometimes courtesan (we know what that means) Satine who’s lived hard with many lovers and who (surprise!) is dying of consumption (as so many heroines in these kinds of plays are). The effervescent Gabrielle Clinton plays Satine with a world weariness, as befitting the character, but with a hope for love and a future that she knows will never come.

Satine catches the eye of Christian (an enthusiastic Christian Douglas), a songwriter newly arrived from Lima, Ohio. Instantly in love with Satine, Christian asks the audience to “try to remember your first real love affair.”

Andrew Brewer as Duke of Monroth in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Satine also is lusted after by Duke of Monroth (villainously played by Andrew Brewer) who wants to own Satine, the Moulin Rouge, all its performers and Zidler. Brewer also is having a great time as the Duke that at any moment one expects him to twirl his moustache as did the villains in the old melodramas.

Satine and Christian see each other clandestinely while she also keeps up the pretense with the Duke. Of course, it can’t end well, given the consumption and all. But even Satine’s end is entertaining.

Nick Rashad Burroughs as Toulouse-Lautrec in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Christian also teams up with bohemian artist Toulouse-Lautrec (a terrific Nick Rashad Burroughs) and dancer Santiago (an equally terrific Danny Burgos) to put on their musical at the Moulin Rouge, a situation that lets Christian and Satine meet onstage). Santiago’s affair with dancer Nini (a lithe Sarah Bowden) enhances the story.

Moulin Rouge! is riddled with references to other plays, some blatantly added, others as subtle as Christian’s comment about “try to remember” (The Fantasticks!). Satine makes her entrance as The Girl on the Swing (an allusion to showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, again, look it up, or watch Ragtime.).

Then, there are the songs. How to squeeze in some 70 songs in a two-hour plus show. And they are crammed in. Most are pop songs from the past several decades mashed together that somehow work. These are the songs that comprise the soundtrack of most of our lives.

Sarah Bowden as Nini and Danny Burgos as Santiago in  Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Satine enters singing “Diamonds Are Forever,” segueing into “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” then “Material Girl” and  then “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”—all in one number.

And that’s how it’s done. A phrase here, a couple of lyrics and then on to the next number. The Duke’s signature song is a Rolling Stones’ combo of “Sympathy for the Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (which is a great funeral song as we all know from The Big Chill)

And who would have thought of pairing up The Sound of Music with I Don’t Want to Wait” “Every Breath You Take” “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

The Police’s standard “Roxanne” (and we know what that song is about) and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” are perfectly placed.

When Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago discuss their new play they are calling Bohemian Rhapsody, you can just hear the orchestra cueing up songs by Queen.

The skimpy, skimpy, skimpy costumes are a marvel of engineering. How they stay intact with the constant, athletic, high-stepping dancing is amazing. No wardrobe malfunctions here.

The various projections of Paris give the feeling of The City of Lights. While there is no song list provided, at least not in my playbill, a timeline of Paris’ real Moulin Rouge is a nice touch.

Moulin Rouge! will run through March 17 in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, as part of the Broadway Across America series. Times are 8 p.m. through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Running time 2 hours, 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets start at $40. For tickets visit www.browardcenter.org, ticketmaster.com; by phone 954-462-0222.

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