‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ Bows On Broadway With Praise From Critics, Show Business Heavy Hitters

Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit star at Boston's Emerson Colonial Theatre in "Moulin Rouge! The Musical"
Paul Marotta / Getty Images

After bowing on Broadway at the Hirschfeld Theater on July 25, Moulin Rouge! The Musical was not deemed a stellar show by at least one critic. However, others — including household names who weren’t on hand to write a review — fell in love with this fresh iteration of the blockbuster 2001 movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

For the stage version, Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit jumped in to play Kidman and McGregor’s parts. Their Christian and Satine well represented the poet and the courtesan, the latter a performer at the show’s namesake Parisian nightclub, according to Playbill.

“The Moulin Rouge… gone through many incarnations — cabaret, theater, music hall — since its founding in the late-19th century… [Moulin Rouge tells] a tragic turn-of-the-century love story through alternate renditions of anachronistic pop songs.”

The legitimate theater version has gone even bigger with even more songs than the film version. In fact, The New York Times said Moulin Rouge! The Musical actually upstages Moulin Rouge, the movie.

“And while the $28 million musical, with a book by John Logan and direction by Alex Timbers, doesn’t stint on the film’s lavish visual style, it made one other big commitment: More music. Much more,” insisted the source, who pointed out that those who will see the final product will enjoy 70 songs by 161 writers.

The long list is varied and memorable, from Elton John’s “Your Song,” to Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” to Outkast’s “Hey Ya!,” to Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Meanwhile, critical reviews have been coming in since the show previewed in Boston this past year. When Ben Brantley of The New York Times first wrote about Moulin Rouge! The Musical in August, 2018, the revered outlet’s critic waxed poetic.

“The jukebox has exploded. Its pieces zoom through the air like candy-colored shrapnel, whizzing by before the memory can tag them and making the blandly familiar sound enticingly exotic. I’m talking about the recycled pop hits, mostly of a romantic stripe, that make up the seemingly infinite song list.”

After its Broadway debut, the new musical was deemed by the BBC to be “mostly delicious.”

The Guardian weighed in, too, getting campy with puns by asking and answering the following question.

“Can Moulin Rouge deliver? Yes it can-can. Look, it is lifting its skirts to show you,” they wrote.

Even theater aficionados beyond the critics, who were seated in the audience for the debut, made their feelings known. For instance, Big Little Lie‘s Laura Dern hopped on Instagram to say she “loved Moulin Rouge” after being present for the Great White Way opening.

Vogue was also enamored.

“You’re not at the theater anymore. You’re in for a roller coaster ride. You’re at the Moulin Rouge.”

The show obviously hit a high note, getting two standing ovations, as well as a confetti-drop during the curtain call, Vogue pointed out.

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Along with all this Moulin Rouge! The Musical praise, naysayer critic Matt Windman, representing AM New York, sold a different take. He said the Great White Way’s latest entry had a “great cast” and a “dazzling set,” but that those worthy elements couldn’t save what he called a “Broadway botch job.”

Judge for yourself. Moulin Rouge! The Musical is scheduled as an open-ended show, and will be on stage at the Hirschfeld Theater in New York City for the foreseeable future.