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The Reviews Are In: ‘Moulin Rouge!’ on Broadway Starring Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo

Category Broadway

|by Mikey Miller |

What did critics make of the stage version of the Baz Luhrmann film?

Based on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 jukebox musical film of the same name, Moulin Rouge! opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre last night, Thursday, July 25. Moulin Rouge! is the story of Christian, a young composer who visits Paris at the turn of the twentieth century and falls in love with Satine, a courtesan and the star of the eponymous cabaret house. Anachronistically employing contemporary pop and rock music to drive its score, Moulin Rouge! comes to Broadway after an out-of-town tryout at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre. It stars Tony winner Karen Olivo (West Side Story, In the Heights) as Satine, Aaron Tveit (Catch Me If You Can, Next to Normal) as Christian, and Tony nominee Danny Burstein (My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof) as Harold Zidler, a fictionalized version of Charles Zidler, the co-founder of the Moulin Rouge. What did critics think of the production? Read on for highlights from 8 critics’ reviews.

Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit star in ‘Moulin Rouge!’ on Broadway (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Karen Olivo and Aaron Tveit star in ‘Moulin Rouge!’ on Broadway (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

The New York Times
“Like the show itself, (Ms. Olivo) skillfully walks a tightrope between archness and sincerity, sophistication and gee-whiz wonder, without ever stumbling. The wide-eyed Mr. Tveit covers the ‘gee-whiz’ part of the equation with appealing exuberance and a gleaming voice.”

“But just walking into the gaudily tricked-out Hirschfeld Theatre is a treat for audiences who know enough to arrive early. In addition to the movie’s signature elephant looming over the audience, there’s red-on-red decor and a dozen or so chandeliers, not to mention the garish mockup of the famous Parisian nightclub’s iconic windmill, flashing in lights from a balcony box.”

New York Post
“Director Alex Timbers’ smartest move is not trying to replicate Luhrmann’s quick-cut sense of humor, which would crash and burn onstage. Instead, he focuses on grandiose emotions, sensuality and the storybook sensation of first love, for which Tveit’s puppy-dog innocence is ideal.”

The Hollywood Reporter
“Burstein's Zidler is in absolute command. Like Jim Broadbent in the movie, he's a twinkly-eyed pleasure-monger of dubious morality...While Burstein gets to lead too few numbers, the notable exception is a rowdy ‘Chandelier’...But with or without solos, Burstein is the thread that binds the show together, a sweeter though no less gleefully sordid sibling to the Brechtian emcee character from Cabaret.”

“The term ‘jukebox musical’ is often one of disparagement, but rarely has it felt more appropriate. What seemed like a clever little motif in the film – having late 19th century bohos strutting to ‘Lady Marmalade’ or jamming to T. Rex – here becomes the raison d’être. The movie’s original soundtrack lists 17 songs, nearly all cover versions of hits, and though a few numbers in the movie were left off the record, even the second volume couldn’t combine to match the 70 (!) songs of the stage version.”

Entertainment Weekly
“Director Alex Timbers’ production is immersive from the first moment; sword swallowers and kohl-eyed dancers in fishnets prowling the stage like uncaged cats even as the audience still mills before the curtain. And the sets, by Derek McLane, are a genuine wonder: filigreed hearts stacked in dense, stage-framing layers; massive windmill and elephant flanking the balconies; ingenious changes from bedroom to boulevard that move so quickly, they feel more like actual magic than mere sleight of hand. The costumes, by Catherine Zuber, are delectably excessive too: miles of satin and chiffon and lady-of-the-night finery, tailored to squeeze every last ribcage.”

Broadway News
“The shining star of the show is the pop song itself – pop as a form of powerful if little-respected contemporary art.”

The Daily Beast
“Sonya Tayeh’s dazzling choreography means the ensemble is the hardest-working, most rapidly kicking one on Broadway; indeed, the dancing is the standout element in the show.”

For more of the best of Broadway this season, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in August 2019.

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