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  • Writer's picturePaul Burston

Vive Le Moulin Rouge!

I want to gush, gush, gush about Moulin Rouge! And thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can, can, can! As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a fan of the film. So was my boyfriend at the time, and my dear friend William who now lives halfway across the world. Yes, it’s camp. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be serious – or seriously moving. We watched the film together many times and played the CD to death. I listened to it again recently in anticipation of the show and it still brings me joy. Despite the bit about – spoiler alert! – our heroine dying of consumption.

But the live show is on another level altogether. Superb staging. Fantastic, truly diverse casting. Women with a variety of body shapes and skin colours. Men in skimpy trunks, frock coats and full length skirts. All looking and sounding fierce. Liisi LaFontaine and newcomer Jamie Bogyo are stunning as the ill-fated lovers, while Clive Carter is suitably playful and commanding as MC Harold Zidler. Jason Pennycooke steals every scene he’s in as Toulouse-Lautrec.

The plot is pretty much the same as in the film. The use of anachronistic pop music is just as enjoyable, only they’ve updated some of the songs, so we now have Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Adele, Talking Heads and Lorde along with Elton, T. Rex, Labelle and the film’s original theme song Come What May. There’s also more Bowie than in the film version, which is a good thing, obviously. Put on your red shoes and dance the blues. We can be heroes, just for one day.

The set reaches out into the audience and the decor extends all around the theatre, so we feel as if we’re inside the Moulin Rouge. The whole show is a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s fast, funny and infectiously sexy – in a good way. My friend Angela Clarke and I were sitting way up in the cheap seats and we loved every minute. I don’t think I’ve grinned so much during a musical since, well, since Angela and I saw Singin’ In The Rain.

In fact, no sooner was Moulin Rouge over than I knew I have to see it again. They said “we could have had it all” – and we did. Truth. Beauty. Freedom. Love. They burned down the house and the audience rose to its feet. I left wearing the official merchandise T shirt emblazoned with the words “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”. The lyrics to Nature Boy are as true today as they were when Nat King Cole first sang it back in 1948.

You’ll feel the love at Moulin Rouge. Do yourself a favour and go. Come what may.

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