When a production is as intricate and extravagant as "Moulin Rouge! The Musical!," mishaps are liable to happen, and often most remain invisible to the audience. That was not so at the show's official opening Friday at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis.
About 20 minutes into the performance of this adult-themed Broadway juggernaut — and after a big buildup to introduce Satine, the singing star and object of two men's desires — the show abruptly stopped. Officials with the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which presents touring Broadway in Minneapolis, later told the Star Tribune that a system that impacts lighting and sound had a glitch and had to be rebooted.
When the stage show resumed 15 minutes later, Courtney Reed, who plays Satine in this glitzy national tour, was aloft. She delivered a mashup of "Diamonds Are Forever" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" beautifully as she descended from a vaunted realm. Reed and the other cast members seemed to use the mishap as inspiration and regained momentum.
Based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film that starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, the stage version of "Moulin" is not just a gorgeous, dance-packed ode to libidinal urges and surges. Directed by Alex Timbers with choroegraphy by Sonya Tayeh, the show's allure also stems from its clever remix of contemporary songs. More than 75 of them have been gleefully reinterpreted and repurposed so serve a sensual story first told in Alexandre Dumas fil's 1848 novel "La Dame aux Camélias."
The narrative, which inspired Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata" before Luhrmann and his team updated it for a story that has even more tweaks for this stage version, is a love triangle orbiting Satine. She is torn between the wealthy Duke of Monroth (David Harris), who owns the club where she sings, and her sidepiece, Bohemian-American songwriter Christian (Conor Ryan).
Christian comes to Paris seeking truth, beauty, freedom and love while the Duke measures everything in money.
You want Satine to have it all. But alas, it ends tragically for her.
Reed totally inhabits the glamor and vulnerability of Satine with convincing range, moxie and vocal gifts. Her Satine makes her preferences clear in physicality and voice. She is wooden and stiff when she's with the Duke, almost like a mechanical doll being manipulated, while she's fluid and feverish with Christian.
One of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenes in the show, and credit goes to Timbers and costume designer Catherine Zuber, happens when the Duke orders Satine to change her dress. She is hoisted by helpers and changed into an elaborate outfit, all done seamlessly.
Reed aced the role, earning all her whoops and hollers during the ovation.
Ryan's Christian did not connect with the audience in the same way. He comes off as annoying, and his desire to possess Satine verges on the problematic. Harris' Duke, on the other hand, is totally commanding, even if the character is a total cad.
There are stronger performances by the likes of Austin Durant as zesty, indefatigable club impresario Harold Zidler and Andre Ward as artist Toulouse-Lautrec.
"Moulin Rouge," named for the red windmill outside the Parisian club, moves with propulsive power and light. After its opening night snafu, the show regained its luster, making this lusty celebration of liberty and libido a treat for all the senses.
'Moulin Rouge! The Musical'
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Wed., 1 & 7:30 p.m. Thu., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sun., 7:30 p.m. Ends June 5.
Tickets: $50-$149. 1-800-982-2787 or hennepintheatretrust.org.