Moulin Rouge! The Musical || Instant sparkling feast for the senses

Spectacular, Spectacular indeed! Moulin Rouge! The Musical officially premiered in the Sunshine State at Brisbane’s extravagantly rouged up Lyric Theatre, QPAC. The iconic production inspired by auteur Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film of the same name painted the town red in celebration of their triumphant gala evening.

The legendary Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin were in attendance to witness the Australian company for the first time as they immortalised an already remarkable opening night performance by the multi-talented cast and crew, as they told a tale of ‘Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love’.

Australian production company Global Creatures (King Kong The Musical, Muriel’s Wedding The Musical) developed the musical that garnered international success on the world’s biggest stages. The highly anticipated 10-time Tony Award winning phenomenon was visually breathtaking.

The room was filled with bright crimson lights, the iconic turning windmill and the ginormous elephant both of which bookended the stage that was lavishly decorated with Parisian influence.

Brisbane caught scarlet fever as they were transported to Paris with an immediate 10-course feast for the senses. The pre-show ensemble members that appeared gradually on and around the stage created a buzz of excitement from the eager audience prior to the official commencement of the show.

Alinta Chidzey shone as the thrilling Moulin Rouge! performer Satine like ‘The Sparkling Diamond’ she was destined to play. Alinta was undeniably stellar as she stepped into the shiny shoes of the extraordinarily complex but intoxicating character. She ascended from the chandelier-filled ceiling on a luminous swing chair and captivated the viewers with her glorious singing voice complete with a top hat and tassels.

Following the shiny number, her vulnerabilities burst in the air like a ‘Firework’ as she captured the strong emotion embellished in the Katy Perry chart-topper.

Alinta highlighted her talents as a triple threat and showcased her comedic stylings in ‘The Pitch’ scene when they were aiming to impress The Duke to save the Moulin Rouge! nightclub from going under. To juxtapose, she honoured her versatility as an actor as she dove into her character’s struggle with the late 1800s disease, Consumption, generally known as Tuberculosis.

Her onstage relationship with Des Flanagan as Christian was striking and hopeful as they swooned over each other when they sung the iconic ‘Elephant Love Medley’, bouncing back and forth with each other alternating pop numbers to match their feeling.

Des Flanagan gave an empowered performance as the American boy, Christian who arrived in France to look for his life’s purpose and to possibly fall in love. Des commanded the stage brilliantly as the optimistic young songwriter. His character caught the attention of Satine on the first night at the Moulin Rouge! after he encountered the young playwright’s Toulouse and Santiago on the street.

The charged-up chemistry between Des and Alinta was magical on opening night as they belted the exciting mash-up of songs ‘Shut up and dance with me’ and ‘Raise Your Glass’ whilst uniting under a case of mistaken identity.

Their affection blossomed and became more complicated by the initiation of a secret love affair behind The Duke’s back, and they performed the musical numbers, ‘Your Song’ and ‘Come what may’ as the couple’s anthems throughout the story, symbolising their union.

Des’ emotional range as an actor was highlighted in act two in the contemporary tunes, ‘Chandelier’ and ‘El Tango De Roxanne’ as he struggled with how The Duke treated Satine in addition to fighting his own inner demons as he attempted to forget her, with a little help from absinthe.

The legendary Australian star of stage and screen Simon Burke AO encapsulated the naughty, playful ringmaster, and owner of the Moulin Rouge! nightclub, Harold Zidler with such joy and charisma. As soon as the show began Simon’s wow personality shone through and the viewer knew they would be taken on a wild ride from beginning to end, especially during the opening number, ‘Welcome to the Moulin Rouge.’

His interactions with all the performers were glorious to witness, and it felt as though he was part of the team rather than a powerful lead. During the scene work part of the show within the show, he was hilarious when he tried on a different English accent, which left the audience in stitches each time he performed it. Another highlight was his kooky performance in ‘Chandelier’, as he was intoxicated with all the dancers and Christian.

The Duke was embodied by the charming and enticing James Bryers. James gave the audience a stunning sinister performance and a controlling depiction of this infamous character. It highlighted that he was the evil presence on stage, as he exhibited the initial actions of some authoritarians in recent modern history.

James’ exchanges with Alinta as Satine were menacing as he admitted to wanting to own her as well as control her and the club, especially in the song, ‘Only girl in the world.’

Jarrod Draper gave an exquisite performance as Toulouse-Lautrec the playwright from the wrong side of the tracks. His character knew Satine when she was a young girl homeless on the street. Jarrod’s personification of Toulouse was brilliant as he completely embraced the French accent, hot temper, and leg limp with his walking stick.

He performed with such grace during the song, ‘Nature boy’ as he was vulnerable with Christian about the reality of Satine and club’s fate at the Moulin Rogue!

Jarrod’s energy was matched equally with the optimistic character of Santiago, played by the giving and spirited Ryan Gonzalez. Ryan and Jarrod had a yin and yang friendship through their character’s roles as the playmaking duo, particularly in ‘So Exciting! (The Pitch Song).’ They both worked together with such ease and excitement with Des’ character Christian.

A memorable moment was when they performed, ‘Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love’ in such an honest and raw manner that you could hear a pin drop in the theatre.

Ryan Gonzalez’s openness was raunchy and sexy as the Argentinean dancer. As soon as he met one of the Lady M performers, Nini played by the incomparable Samantha Dodemaide, it was a bull-fighting match made in heaven. Their relationship thrived in the sexy musical number, ‘Backstage Romance’, which included the Lady Gaga smash-hit, Bad Romance.

Samantha performed the house down as the blonde Australian performer, Nini. Her character was number two behind Satine at the Moulin Rouge! club. Despite that fiery jealousy, she was a dear friend to ‘The Sparkling Diamond’ in her time of need and it was heartbreakingly tender to watch their comradiere.

Olivia Vasquez gorgeously dominated the Brisbane stage as Arabia with such love, attitude and god-given artistic talent. I mean, her out-of-this-world vocals blew the roof off, especially in, ‘Welcome to The Moulin Rouge!’ Olivia’s connection with the four Lady M’s was like an electric invisible string, they were always tied to each other for support.

Christopher J Scalzo was effervescent and comedic as the fun-loving, Babydoll. Christopher portrayed the bright faced dancing queen with a stunning belting voice, keeping the audience excited and thrilled everytime the fishnets and red pigtail hair piece arrived on stage. Babydoll’s sweet empathetic nature was the most beautiful to be present for, particularly when Babydoll was there for Satine.

Chaska Halliday rounded out the Lady M’s as the powerhouse confident diva, La Chocolat. Chaska was ravishing and left the audience wanting, ‘More more more! (Encore).’ She was made for this show and owned her role as she became ‘Lady Marmalade’ persay and kept the crowd guessing with her wit and passionate persona.

The ensemble performers were insanely powerful and dynamic as they epically executed the Award-winning Sonya Tayeh choreography with such passion. Their endurance and commitment to their craft was inspirational to watch.

The show wouldn’t be the same without the show-stopping dance masterpieces, particularly the ‘Backstage Romance’ sequence that included the hit pop songs, – ‘Bad Romance’, ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Seven Nation Army’, ‘Toxic’ and ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).’

This number was the visual highlight of the entire show, the shapes they made and their energy was second- to-none. The audience erupted into an earth-shaking applause.

‘The Sparkling Diamond’ dance number showcased the talents of the group with ashtonishing lifts, turns and exquisite stage presence.

This number included a myriad of diamond related chart-topping songs including, ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’, ‘Material Girl’, ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’, ‘Brick House’, ‘My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)’, ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Diamonds.’

Enter Moulin Rouge! The Musical for the spectacle and hype, stay for the recognisable music, inspired dance numbers, detailed inventive costumes, unbelievable set and committed strong performers who came alive on stage whilst recreating a cult classic tragic love story.

They passed on their electrical energy to the River City with a deserved standing ovation well before curtain call.

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s speech at the conclusion of the performance highlighted their emotional reaction to the home-grown spirit and story of love, ‘It was with such emotion and pride to see what we can do here at home.’

Moulin Rouge! can-canned into our hearts and souls. Brisbane don’t miss the captivating Moulin Rouge! The Musical!

TICKETS || Lyric Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane
Playing now until 27 July

All images supplied.