March 24, 2022
by K.J. Joseph
I am no renowned theater critic, singer, or actress. I write to you as one of the many musical theater fans in the world. Theater has been such a soulful spark of inspiration in my life. I feel that it is only natural to support the community that contributes towards its creation. Musical theater is more than just entertainment, it reminds of us what we are truly passionate about in life, that anything is possible, and all with the prospect that anyone could break out in song at any moment, even you.
I went to Moulin Rouge last December 7th for the first time to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. Like many people I’ve talked to, I had seen the movie with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor when I was younger and couldn’t remember anything about it. To be honest, I watched the entire movie again with my husband before we left for New York City to refresh my brain.
My dad is a retired airline pilot which is why I have been fortunate enough to travel to see many shows in New York City over the years. Some of those shows include Les Misérables, which is one of my all-time favorite musicals. I recall years ago, I went to New York with my stepmom and waited in the cancellation line to score really close tickets for WICKED when Kristin Chenoweth was still in the cast. The first show I saw in New York City was CATS. I was so young at the time I was just in awe the stage setup and costumes. Then last week my husband and I took my stepdaughter to HADESTOWN and Moulin Rouge for our second time.
Notice, I say my husband and I went to Moulin Rouge in New York City for the second time last week. We decided our stepdaughter had to see it because the show is exceptional. The book by John Logan that is based on the 2001 motion picture written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. The music intertwined throughout the show is more current and familiar to the audience brilliantly connecting people of all ages. I found it smart that they only used a few key songs from the original movie that were relevant and memorable to the present time audience.
Both shows included performers Aaron Tveit as Christian, Ashley Loren as Satine, Tam Mutu as the Duke of Monroth, Jaqueline B. Arnold as La Chocolat, Holly James as Arabia, Ricky Rojas as Santiago, and Robyn Hurder as Nini. We were also fortunate enough to see both Danny Burstein as the role of Harold Zidler before he retired and passed the torch on to Eric Anderson who stepped in not missing a beat. The part of Toulouse-Lautrec is played by the talented Sahr Ngaujah, and we were privileged to see Olutayo Bosede play the role in December. This was a rich example of how much talent lies in every cast and how they don’t work unless they are a team. It is important to recognize that the shows wouldn’t go on without the swing and understudy cast. It never ceases to amaze me how cast members can play multiple roles flawlessly when called on. It is easy to forget how much time and hard work it takes to learn one part alone let alone additional parts at the same time.
It is well known that Aaron Tveit has amazing vocals, but on top of that his acting is so real that you completely believe him and sometimes forget you are in a theater. When Christian’s heart breaks for Satine I cried with him. There were a few times I wanted to yell out like I was there watching this story unravel in real time. Thankfully, for myself and sake of everyone else present in the theater, I contained myself. Believing a character, I mean really believing, is what showcases talent.
Christian starts the second act addressing the audience to remember what it was like when you first fell in love. This sets the necessary tone. It gives permission to the audience members to be vulnerable with their own emotions that need it. Also, it inserts a deliberate idea that many may need to completely understand the dramatic content. As we get older and further from that first love experience it is easy to forget what it was like. Living in a world with the intense stream of social media that that somehow makes us believe that multi-tasking is possible, it is easy to miss something that is necessary to let yourself fully to commit to the story. This moment of addressing the audience is simple but a powerful fail-safe that shows the cast values their spectators enough to take the initiative to go beyond the status quo when it comes to the art of musical theater.
When the Duke, Tam Mutu, introduces himself to the audience, you dislike him immediately because he is not anything other than a walking rich entitled chauvinistic pig without a doubt. Now, you may think I’m being insulting by stating this, but being a walking rich entitled chauvinistic pig is exactly what the Duke’s character is supposed to be. So, Bravo! Mutu doesn’t hold back on becoming the character. Anyone that has dated a male can relate to sitting at a bar minding your own business and a guy tries to pick you up by talking about his expensive car, trips, and yadda yadda yadda. The next thing you know your recharge time has turned into your worse nightmare because he won’t leave you alone and you can’t get away faster from him.
Ashley Loren, who plays Satine, sings a Katy Perry song that is called, Firework. A very familiar song, right? I truly didn’t know the lyrics and meaning to this song until I heard Loren sing it. I’m not saying that is the case for everyone, but for me it was. I really connected to the lyrics and emotion of what she was singing. Up until that point I had always liked the song, but always just took it as a poppy fast happy song. It is so much more then that and if I never heard the different arrangement, I’d still think that. It is a song that all humans can relate to. I think this arrangement did the musical justice and also promoted the original artist in a very positive light. I guess you could say the first advertisement that shows some depth.
Toulouse-Lautrec and Santigo are the characters that are Christian’s partners in crime by hilariously maintaining balance in the stories emotions. They literally become your sidekicks too because you believe you are there right with them. The character of Harold Zidler is similar, but because he is the narrator, the audience relies on him completely. The audience takes this character completely for granted and the ability to do so is a talent that takes the upmost responsibility for who is casted.
You can’t miss La Chocolate and Arabia who are played by Jaqueline B. Arnold and Holly James. The vocal range between the two is food for the ears. James’s dancing abilities had the audience hanging on her every move and just when you’d process one move, she’d already have done another one.
Last but not least, Nini, who is played by Robyn Hurder, sets the bar high when it comes to dance talent. One of the most memorable scenes in the show is the dance between Santiago and Nini. I am not going to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it for people that haven’t gone yet. The braiding of Lady Ga Ga’s lyrics in a new arrangement with the tango is a genius surprise for the audience, and that is just the beginning.
I’m from Minneapolis and our theater community is remarkable. Many of the shows that are performed on BROADWAY travel to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. In fact, Mouli Rogue will be coming to the Orpheum in Minneapolis May 18th – June 5th of 2022. Make sure to buy your tickets, support the community of talent, and enjoy the show.
Purchase your tickets here: