It’s magnificent, it’s breathtaking, it’s seductively corseted in ribbon and lace — it’s “Moulin Rouge!” at the Orpheum Theatre.
From its dynamic set design to riveting choreography to ingenious musical mashups, BroadwaySF’s latest is absolutely unmatched in its allure. Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler is always pleased to host audiences in the glitz and glamor of his marvelous cabaret, and it would be a shame to turn his invitation down.
The production design of “Moulin Rouge!” thoroughly transforms the Orpheum. A spinning windmill, modeled after the one famously sitting atop the real Moulin Rouge venue , and an 18-foot elephant sit on either side of the stage, bringing the captivating thrills of the cabaret and irresistible evenings of Paris even closer to audiences. The energy in the theater overflows with the tantalizing spark of the cabaret; the electricity is felt as soon as one enters the room, and it only becomes increasingly charged as the night continues.
The delightful ambiance prepares viewers for the highest resplendency, and “Moulin Rouge!” delivers that and more. Curtains rise to an exhilarating opening number, a mashup of songs including Christina Aguilera’s version of “Lady Marmalade” and Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” and the audience is immediately absorbed into the sequined splendor of the cabaret. The ensemble, clad in extravagant, colorful costumes of ruffles, glitter and feathers, performs with distinctive attitude and precise expression. During each moment of these company numbers, incredible displays of talent illuminate every corner of the stage. Though it’s difficult to decide where to look, every second is awe-inspiring.
Throughout its duration, the musical artfully manipulates the audience’s attention. “Moulin Rouge!” overwhelms in the most pleasing way. Viewers’ eyes chase the spectacles on stage, then suddenly, focus is drawn back in and directed through brilliant choreography and lighting. The production cleverly distracts before executing its astoundingly smooth transitions. Audiences feel the seamlessness of scene changes, but they don’t necessarily see them — a remarkable feat considering the musical’s various distinct locations. This fluidity feels almost magical, and the flawless grandeur leaves viewers spellbound.
Perhaps one of the most enticing aspects of the musical is the charming chemistry between its leads, Satine (Courtney Reed) and Christian (Conor Ryan). The two are phenomenal on their own. Reed’s Satine is sensual, jaded yet passionate; Ryan’s Christian is lovingly awkward and radiates magnetic, wide-eyed greenness with every movement. The pair wield unparalleled power when they share the stage, leaving audiences as enamored by them as they are with each other. Reed and Ryan deliver jaw-dropping vocal performances that the theater can barely contain; they make audiences’ hearts swell after every number.
“Moulin Rouge!” pushes the potential of jukebox musicals. Its inventive soundtrack is filled with familiar favorites spanning the decades, but it sounds like nothing audiences have heard before. It’s immensely fun to hear adaptations of radio hits such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Lorde’s “Royals” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and the musical gives these tunes new life while becoming all the more exciting and engaging.
Occasionally, the unexpected revamped pop number or repurposed lyric strums a humorous chord — the premise is undeniably a little ridiculous. But, “Moulin Rouge!” embraces this comedic clash, and it welcomes the laughs. The writing for the musical is also hilarious, filled with clever jokes that contrast, yet simultaneously flow with, the show’s lavishness to create a beautifully balanced tone throughout. Without sacrificing an ounce of quality, the musical maintains a fun and inviting atmosphere by not taking itself too seriously.
The musical is ever so slightly gratuitous, but it’s excessive in the best way. “Moulin Rouge!” is majestic without being garish, campy without being overwhelming. It’s a delightfully indulgent piece of musical theater that refuses to hold back in its visual or musical appeal, and no one wants it to stop.
“Moulin Rouge!” will pull audiences into the pulsing red romance of the cabaret and spin them around under the light of the Paris stars. It’s impossible not to fall in love.