“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” Dazzles at Dr. Phillips Center

It is more than a musical; it’s a state of mind.

The cast of Moulin Rouge on tour
The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, photo courtesy of The Dr.Phillips Center

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical”- A State of Mind

As theatergoers scan their tickets to “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” pass through the metal detectors, buy their themed libations, and search for their seats at Dr. Phillips Center’s Walt Disney Theater, they may be surprised to find the show already in progress. 

Showgirls and showboys are gliding across the stage, striking provocative poses, culminating in two showgirls engaging in some impressive pre-show sword-swallowing. It’s a titillating opener, a theatrical amuse-bouche.

 “Moulin Rouge!” is a rocket-paced spectacle of a production, chock full of visuals that take the audience back to the famous Parisian nightclub and Belle époque Paris circa 1899. Economically directed by Alex Timbers, the show captivates theatergoers when they take their seats. 

The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical
The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, photo courtesy of The Dr.Phillips Center

And the Audience Goes Wild at the Dr.Phillips Center

The audience reaction on Tuesday’s opening night was nothing short of euphoric. And they’re not alone, as “Moulin Rouge!” was nominated for 10 Tony awards, including Best Musical. The show opened in 2019, surviving the COVID shutdown, and is still running on Broadway through September 2024.

The eclectic set by Derek McLane, with lighting design by Justin Townsend, is stunning, with pulsating, vibrant reds and blacks morphing to cobalt blues with filigreed, heart-shaped frames. Reminiscent of the Kit Kat Club from “Cabaret,” this is a place where the bohemians mix with aristocracy, where art trumps power. In this universe, even dukes must wait for the beguiling headliner Satine (Gabrielle McClinton), who makes her first appearance precariously perched on a swing.

Gabriella McClinton with the cast of the North American tour of Moulin Rouge.
Gabrielle McClinton (center) and the cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, photo courtesy of the Dr.Phillips Center.

 The Jukebox Musical Score

The jukebox musical score features songs from Patti La Belle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Talking Heads “Burning Down the House,” as well as songs by Elton John, Adele, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and even snippets of Rodgers and Hammerstein. One feels that John Logan somehow found my old college jam list and slapped it on the stage.

The jukebox musical genre is popular, to varying degrees of success. For example, “Beautiful,” the story of Carole King, “Jersey Boys,” and, of course, “MAMA MIA!” which is scheduled for the 2024-25 season, are all examples of successful attempts at the form. They work because the songs serve the story. In the case of “Moulin Rouge!” it’s a bit more hit-or-miss.

The Story Behind Moulin Rouge

Speaking of the story, which is based on the 2001 movie written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, a musical book by John Logan, this is where “Moulin Rouge!” falls from the hit-or-miss category. The script tries too hard to tick off so many boxes that it loses any sense of authenticity.  

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Because the Moulin Rouge financial books are in the red, owner Harold Zidler (Robert Petkoff) connives his way into receiving a donation from the Duke of Monroth (Andrew Brewer) by pimping out the seductive Satine. The plan falters when Satine falls in love with Christian (Christian Douglas), a visitor from the United States who has come to Paris to write songs and live the bohemian life. Christian immediately meets Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago (Nick Rashad Burroughs and Danny Burgos) as they forge a fast and furious friendship.

Christian Douglas & Gabrielle McClinton in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Christian Douglas & Gabrielle McClinton in the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, photo courtesy of The Dr.Phillips Center

Powerful Vocals and Vibrant Choreography

The company is a delight, with powerful vocals and vibrant choreography by Sonya Tayeh. The opening number, “Lady Marmalade,” was performed to steamy perfection. Our young lovers, Christian and Satine, dutifully go about their business with oodles of charisma. It’s Christian Douglas as Christian who steals your heart and dominates the stage with his stellar voice and boyish charm.

Overall, the production is a stunner, with ravishing visuals, superb performances, and fast-paced direction that no one notices that the story is contrived. Who cares about such contrivances when the production and performances are so top-notch?

Showtime Dates

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a book by John Logan and music by various artists, is based on the movie directed by Baz Luhrmann. Directed by Alex Timbers, music supervisor and co-orchestrator of arrangements and additional lyrics; Justin Levine, music director; Andrew Graham, music producer; Matt Stine, lighting design; Justin Townsend. 

February 20-March 3, 2024, Walt Disney Theater, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m. & 8 p.m.

For information drphillips.org


More than 300 Local Heroes to Attend Broadway’s “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” for Community Giveback at the Dr. Phillips Center

First responders, Veterans and teachers to experience Broadway on February 27 & 29

Since 2017, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has led a community giveback initiative to spread the joys of performing arts across the local community. Today, the arts center announces the exciting continuation of that tradition, where more than 300 City of Orlando and Orange County first responders, veterans, and Orange County teachers will be treated to an evening at the arts center to experience Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical February 27 and 29, 2024.

“Delivering Arts for Every Life® is engrained in who we are and being able to bring the Broadway Community Giveback initiative to those who make our world a better place is a gift,” said Kathy Ramsberger, president & CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center.

These special guests are invited to a pre-show reception featuring French-inspired light bites and refreshments, followed by a showing of Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical at 8 p.m. inside the beautiful Walt Disney Theater.

These two memorable live theater opportunities are made possible by the generous support of PepsiCo, Massey Services and Sysco.


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Written by T. Michele Walker

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