Moulin Rouge, the stage production of the iconic Baz Luhrmann film, is currently on tour and at the Pantages in Hollywood. I was able to go see the show and have many thoughts about the experience that I wanted to share.
Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies and the leap to Broadway seemed fitting for the jukebox musical extravaganza. Prior to seeing the stage version, I knew there were changes from the film, mainly the music, so I was interested in seeing how much was ultimately changed. And there were many changes.
I’m going to start off positively with what is easily the best part of the show: the set. From the moment you enter you will be wowed. Yes, there is a windmill and it rotates. Yes, there is a giant elephant. And even during the show, the set transforms quite impressively. One moment we are inside the club, the next we’re in the Paris streets with a fully realized set. It is quite impressive, even if you aren’t one to invest too much attention to these details.
But does the show match the wonder and spectacle of the set? Partially. It is definitely a spectacle and my brother and I enjoyed watching it. It is hard to not enjoy the music, dancing, and overall energy the cast puts into it. You can tell the ensemble is having fun so you have fun because the whole theater has that energy.
As I said there were music changes and for the most part I don’t have issues with them. The only times I had issues were when the film version of the song is clearly better and when the utilization of a song was done poorly. El tango de Roxanne is one of the most, if not the most, iconic songs in the original film. And while it is included in the stage show, it makes no sense. It almost feels like they originally cut it but during previews, audiences complained so they wedged it back in illogically, changing who is singing it and the entire context behind it. That is the worst of what changed musically in my opinion, but I also wish that Spectacular Spectacular and Elephant Love Medley could have gone unchanged too.
Here is my biggest heartbreak. If you care about the plot at all, you will be disappointed. Disappointed is the first way I described my feelings post-show. The original film has a surprisingly good story, and the stage version clearly did not care and butchered it entirely. No plot change they made was good and honestly, it ruined the show for me. I never believed the love story between Christian and Satine so, at the end, I honestly did not care about what happened to them. Every main character was altered and never in a way that improved them or the show. There are obvious plotholes created and so many things that were reduced to a brief narration. I spent an hour after the show sharing ways to fix the story to make it at least make sense, let alone be the actual plot. I could dig into each change I have issues with, but I want to keep this spoiler-free mainly for the film’s sake.
I would overall summarise that the stage version of Moulin Rouge was created solely with money in mind, not any actual care for the source material. And that genuinely upsets me. I was upset while still watching the show because they ruined one of the most compelling parts of Moulin Rouge. I applaud the cast for performing well and for the sets that were amazing, but not for the show itself.
Initially, my recommendation was if you are interested in seeing the show and haven’t seen the movie, go and enjoy it because it is enjoyable. Many of the other audience members around me enjoyed it. But if you like the movie, you’ll be disappointed. But honestly, after writing this, I can’t recommend anyone go see this show because of how horribly they destroyed the beautiful story. Just go watch the movie, which is just as entertaining and striking and you can enjoy the story properly.
Overall, I wish this adaptation of Moulin Rouge was better. If you’re naive to the source, you might love it. But the film is much, much better in my opinion and would be a more worthwhile watch.