In Review

Moulin Rouge! on stage: ‘it burns prettily enough, but it doesn’t blaze’

Tony-winning adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s much-loved film now on at the Piccadilly Theatre

As the curtain seems finally to be rising again “on a more carefree” world, we have just the show to get the party started in the West End, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. Moulin Rouge! – a Tony-winning adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s much-loved film – is a bit “short on plot”, but it more than makes up for that with “hedonistic spectacle”.

As in the film, the slender story concerns a “doomed, albeit finally requited love told in forlorn flashback by a wide-eyed bohemian with a preternatural gift for song-writing” – all of which is really just an excuse to fill “a dreamlike fin de siècle Montmartre with an array of modern pop hits”.

Still, the real point of this show isn’t the snatches of well-worn pop songs, said Quentin Letts in The Sunday Times. It’s flesh. “Bustiers abound”, and there are “more basques than Bilbao”. And while there’s an attempt at equality (there are some “bare-chested chaps from the chorus line”), it’s basically “girls, girls, girls – gartered, corseted or froufrou’d in cancan skirts”.

The whole theatre has been thrillingly transformed into a turn-of-the century Parisian nightclub, and the design is a triumph: we are carried, “with colourful brio”, from the club itself to a Paris that “springs to vivid life in front of our eyes”, said Sarah Crompton on What’s On Stage.

It’s irresistibly joyous – and backed up by some “terrific” acting and singing from the cast, led by Liisi LaFontaine as Satine and Jamie Bogyo as Christian. The show is an “absolute blast”.

Alex Timbers’s production is certainly “ravishing to look at”, said Ava Wong Davies in The Independent. But it lacks the “edge of seediness” that made Luhrmann’s film such a success. Instead, it invests in a level of opulence that “overstimulates” while failing to intrigue. Alas, there’s also a “deadening” lack of chemistry between the romantic leads.

For all the sexed-up costumes, the staging feels “insufficiently disreputable”, agreed Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail. In order to be worthy of that exclamation mark in its title, this musical needs more crackle; more fire. For now “it burns prettily enough, but it doesn’t blaze”.

Piccadilly Theatre, London W1. Until 23 July

Recommended

Roti King Battersea: a masterful Malaysian eatery
The menu at Roti King in Battersea is ‘glorious’
In Review

Roti King Battersea: a masterful Malaysian eatery

Six of the best headphones
Man wearing headphones sitting on roof
The wish list

Six of the best headphones

Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel: an impressive country house
Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel in Gloucestershire
In Review

Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel: an impressive country house

A weekend in Dublin
The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey at Temple Bar in Dublin
The big trip

A weekend in Dublin

Popular articles

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?
Nato troops
In Depth

Nato vs. Russia: who would win?

The Week Footer Banner