September 9, 2022
Moulin Rouge! is more than a musical — it is a state of mind.
I clapped my hands; I danced in the aisle. I laughed, I shouted, and I cried, for The Tony Award®-winning, Best Musical. Moulin Rouge! The Musical opened at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, to a packed house.
I attended the press event Friday Sept 9, and saw the show that evening. I was honored to meet and talk with lead members of the cast; Courtney Reed (Satine), Conor Ryan (Christian), Austin Durant (Harold Zidler the Ringmaster), Andre Ward (Toulouse-Lautrec), David Harris (The Duke of Monroth and Villain), Libby Lloyd (Nini), and Gabe Martinez (Santiago), and to be allowed to photograph them, and a couple of numbers from the show, inside the acclaimed theater.
Cutting to the chase, the show is a Smash, a fabulous evening of immersive theater at its best. From the time you walk into the Orpheum Theater you are transported back it time, to that Parisian Cabaret of the 1890’s and which became the iconic music hall of the Roaring 20s and 1930s.
The Orpheum theater opened in 1926, its interior featuring a high vaulted ceiling and walls consisting of intricate plaster filigree, reflecting now the Belle Epoque setting for Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
As in the film, the storyline for the musical revolves around a young bohemian poet and writer, Christian, who is enchanted, seduced, and falls deeply in love with the Best Courtesan of Paris, Satine, who resides above the Moulin Rouge where she performs.
The Duke of Monroth covets the favor of Satine, who must enchant the Duke in order to gain financial favor and investment in the show from the Duke, for our Storyteller and Ringmaster, Harold Zidler. Satine has fallen in love with Christian but she also keeps a dark secret.
As we left the theater, a girl with tears streaming down her cheeks, looked at me and said, ” I didn’t see the film, I didn’t know !”
The Musical is based Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 feature film, Moulin Rouge, released by 20th Century Fox, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that year. The Musical production features a myriad of pop songs, which brilliantly become part of the ongoing dialog for the show itself. It is mind boggling how the scriptwriter incorporate the lyrics so seamlessly, and how the performers kept the intricate lyrics and dance steps, all layered and so perfectly timed. As Conor Ryan told me, `that’s the easy part, it becomes muscle memory,’ and Courtney Reed agreed, `because the sets are built with great precision, they are the same at every stop on the tour.’
`What isn’t so easy,’ Courtney Reed followed up with, `Is moving about backstage.’ Courtney described how each new venue required precise coordination between each performer and their Dressers backstage. Austin Durant chimed in, `I need to make sure that path is clear, as I run backstage from one side to the other.’
The cast all agreed doing the show was the easier part of being in a Touring Company. When I asked them all what was the most challenging aspect of touring, they all agreed, living on the road, the travel between shows, and being away from family and friends. Andre Ward told me, ‘I’ve accumulated too much stuff, I had to mail boxes of shoes back home.’ Libby Lloyd was the exception in one sense, ‘I’m lucky because my husband can work from anywhere, and he travels with me.’
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a theatrical celebration of Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and — above all — Love, in a world of splendor, eye-popping excess, glitz, grandeur, and glory. It’s a world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows, and other body parts, and revel in splendid enchantment. But at its heart, at its very heart, it is a love story between Christian (Conor Ryan) and Satine (Courtney Reed), who’s soul filled harmonies on “Come What May,” brought continued tears to the entranced audience [yours truly included.]
The song list consist of a a GaZillion songs, here are just a few; “Roxanne,” “Lady Marmalade, “Brick House,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “I will Always Love You,” “Material Girl,” “Money,” “One More Night,” and a GaZillion more. Winner of 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical the Tour is directed by Tony Award-winner Alex Timbers.
With a book by Tony Award-winner John Logan; music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements by Tony Award-winner Justin Levine; and choreography by Tony Award-winner Sonya Tayeh.
The ensemble cast was fabulous, kicking and high-stepping in the naughtiest of costumes as befit the namesake Cabaret, and showing off their Can-Can as well. A shout-out for the San Francisco audience is in order as well, as they whooped and hollered their love and appreciation throughout the show, raising the spirit and energy of the audience itself, as well as the performers on stage.
Artist Kat Robichaud, Producer of Misfit Cabaret, raved after seeing the show; “I loved Moulin Rouge the Musical… when there’s that much incredible singing and dancing and costumes and set design and pop mashups and canes that shoot confetti and splits and ass, and glitter…”, `You said it Kat!’
There is nothing like live theater. There was an unmistakable intimacy between performers, between performers and audience, you do not get elsewhere. I was mesmerized by the vocals of Courtney Reed and Conor Ryan, along with all the cast. This is a show to see time and again, for sure I will. Austin Durant was cast perfectly as the boisterous Ringmaster), and Andre Ward was the perfect Toulouse-Lautrec). As for David Harris as the Duke of Monroth, all I can say is, ‘I still don’t like him [the Duke.]’
I highly believe that there should be a Tony Award for Casting, and that Moulin Rouge! The Musical would win that Tony Award hands-down.
I want to thank BroadwaySF, part of the Ambassador Theatre Group, which is the preeminent theater entertainment company in the Bay Area, for bringing live theatrical experiences to the Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres in San Francisco. It is truly a privilege to be able to see Broadway caliber talent and production, right here at home. For more information and for tickets, connect with BroadwaySF . I highly recommend taking transportation such as Bart, or a rideshare if you are at a hotel. There is a Parking across the street, and please, do not park on the street.
Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco CA., Moulin Rouge The Musical in San Francisco Sept 8 through Nov 6, 2022, Running Time 2 Hrs 35 Min, One Intermission, BART – Civic Center Station
*Photos by Greg Autry c2022GregAutry_ARR