Live Theater Reviews, Live Theater

Theatre Review: MOULIN ROUGE! THE MUSICAL at The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Posted: May 6, 2024 at 7:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

In the summer of 2001, as a 17-year-old, I joined a group of friends to watch Moulin Rouge at a local theater. Initially reluctant about a musical, my decision was swayed by the company of my friends rather than the film itself. However, I left the theater pleasantly surprised, laughing and singing along with them. The movie became an instant favorite for us, charming us with its hectic yet beautiful and heartbreaking story.

Fast forward over twenty years, I found myself at The Fabulous Fox Theatre for a stage adaptation of Moulin Rouge. Unlike my initial encounter with the film, I carried specific expectations and a deep affection for the story, having revisited it numerous times over the years.

We once joked about Ewan McGregor starring in a musical version of Star Wars right after seeing the film, but also fantasized about a live stage version of Moulin Rouge. The realization of this dream took longer than anticipated and the result was a mixed experience.

For those unfamiliar, Moulin Rouge is set in 1800s Paris, specifically in the Montmartre district, bustling with artists espousing Bohemian values of truth, beauty, freedom, and love. The narrative centers on Christian, an American artist/poet, and the enchanting Satine, the “sparkling diamond” of the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Their romance, blooming from a comedic case of mistaken identity, faces severe challenges from a controlling Duke and a life-threatening illness.

The stage show shines in many areas. The cast delivers stellar performances, particularly Christian Douglas as a convincingly naive Christian and Gabrielle McClinton as a dynamic Satine. Andrew Brewer reinterprets the Duke with a menacing edge absent in the film, and Robert Petkoff, channeling Eddie Izzard, steals the show as Harold Zidler.

The production quality is exceptional, with breathtaking sets and innovative lighting effects that create a visually stunning experience. This aspect rivals the cinematic spectacle of the original film.

The adaptation’s new musical arrangements had varied success. While some songs integrated well, others felt forced or lacked the emotional impact of their movie counterparts. Notably, the stage version of “El Tango de Roxanne” carries a more aggressive tone, contrasting with its cinematic expression of despair. Changes to songs like “Elephant Love Medley” were seamless and retained their original significance. However, replacing Satine’s poignant “One Day I’ll Fly Away” with Katy Perry’s “Firework” sacrificed character depth for mainstream appeal to the show’s detriment.

Ultimately, the production leans heavily on visual splendor at the expense of narrative depth. While the film managed to balance spectacle with meaningful character moments, the stage version often undermines its subtler scenes with overt grandeur.

If you’re seeking a spectacle, this show will not disappoint. It’s a dazzling experience, though one that might leave enthusiasts of the original film wanting more in terms of emotional depth.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical plays The Fabulous Fox through May 12. Tickets are available via MetroTix or the box office. For more information, visit

Photos: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade