Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Moulin Rouge!’ dazzles on Boston Stage

Rachel Choi

This article contains spoilers. 

On Feb. 1, the Citizens Bank Opera House stage lit up in a fiery red glow as “Moulin Rouge!” commenced in a flurry of confetti and energy that filled every inch of the gilded room.  This musical adaptation based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film took part on a national tour from Jan. 16  to Feb. 4. The production follows the story of bohemian songwriter Christian (Christian Douglas) and his encounter with the diamond of the Moulin Rouge, Satine (Gabrielle McClinton).

The show originally premiered in 2018 at the Emerson Colonial Theatre Boston before going on Broadway and winning 10 Tony Awards. It now returns to its ‘home’ as part of the Broadway in Boston series that brings shows such as “Come From Away” and “Book of Mormon” alongside “Moulin Rouge!” to Boston area stages. 

From past to present, “Moulin Rouge!” has proven to be a tour de force that sets itself apart from other similar shows. 

The musical is unique in that it is a jukebox musical, meaning that it is made up of pre-existing songs made to fit the plot. Still, the score is made up of mash-ups and adaptations of previously written songs. For example, the songs “Only Girl (In The World)” by Rihanna, “Material Girl” by Madonna, and “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” by Marilyn Monroe were combined and slightly altered in places to create the song “Only Girl in a Material World” sung during the musical by the characters of the Duke and Satine. 

The song intends to simulate a nightclub, reflecting the setting of the Moulin Rouge. It also allows the audience to engage with familiar favorites in a new and innovative context. 

Such a score showcases the careful efforts of the musical’s creators to reimagine popular pieces in a cohesive Broadway style and connect songs in previously unexplored ways. Another favorite is the song “Backstage Romance,” which is a combination of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” and Britney Spears’s  “Toxic.” 

The energy and glamor of the original film are not lacking in the musical adaptation. Fun aims to seep into the audience’s hearts when they enter the theater and catch a glimpse of the red marquee that reads ‘Moulin Rouge.’ 

The musical innovatively reimagines choices such as lighting to immerse the audience into the story, creating moods that add to the nightclub feel of the performance. This can be found in the choice to light the set and characters’ glasses the green of the absinthe they’re drinking during “Chandelier” to create a haunted and drunken atmosphere. 

Though the musical is set in 1899, it nicely balances appealing to modern audiences while keeping itself in its period. 

The costumes maintain the historical silhouette and aesthetic of the late 1890s. Still, the colors chosen are much flashier than they would have been during that time, fitting among the musical numbers’ strobe lighting and high energy. In one of the opening dances, the female ensemble sports the traditional attire worn during the can-can dance of the period, but in hues of turquoise, orange, and pink rather than the muted blues and whites seen in drawings from the time. 

These elements richly backdrop the main conflict of the musical, Christian’s struggle due to his love for Satine, who needs to entertain a rich duke to finance the Moulin Rouge. This tension spirals into a crescendo, leaving him both haunted and comforted by the memory of his time with Satine. He declares the lessons he has learned from the experience to be truth, beauty, freedom, and love — universal themes emerging from the madness of revenge Christian falls into because of Satine’s situation. 

Ultimately, the musical’s sharp twist on Satine’s death drives home the message of the importance of love and being loved, no matter how short that love’s lifespan turns out to be.

The musical’s unique score and high-power performances from the leads to the ensemble leave no doubt as to why the relatively new show has already received much critical acclaim and has risen to such levels of popularity, dazzling audiences during its run on Broadway and in Boston. 

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About the Contributor
Danielle Bartholet, Assistant Living Arts Editor
Danielle Bartholet has been passionate about writing as long as she can remember, writing on her high school newspaper and then for the Berkeley Beacon since 2023. She is currently a freshman at Emerson as a WLP major and a marketing communications minor. She is from Houston, TX, and enjoys reading and writing, as well theatre.

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