Moulin Rouge! (Piccadilly Theatre, London)

Verdict: We need more rouge 


Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor was perhaps best described as a super-massive sugar rush — a Molotov cocktail of music and dance meant to blow your mind.

Moulin Rouge West End Stage has opened its third attempt. It was a difficult task to live up to this legacy.

While it may have been a big hit Broadway, Alex Timbers’s London production was consistently stymied over Christmas by Covid. 

The story about the fin-de-siècle Parisian nightclub, burns prettily enough, but it doesn’t blaze.

With a plot fusing Cabaret, La Boheme and The Rocky Horror Show — plus a soundtrack stitched together with everything from Talking Heads to Rihanna — it’s extravagant, but never really daring or reckless.

The West End stage version of Moulin Rouge, which has finally opened at the third attempt, always had its work cut out living up to the film's legacy. Pictured: Liisi LaFontaine as Satine

Moulin Rouge’s West End version has opened after the third attempt. However, it was not easy living up to its legacy. Pictured: Liisi LaFontaine as Satine

Derek McLane is not allowed to let the dangerous atmosphere in Soho’s red-light neighborhood ruin his stunning set design. It reminded me of Downing Street’s controversially redecorated private bedrooms. 

Imagine Ann Summers lingerie as trompe lait wallpaper. 

The stage is flanked by a large blue elephant and a neon-lit, red-colored windmill (our moulin Rouge’), which loom over the audience like the ancient Statuary of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

But despite the bombast the performance is a panto that’s intended to make us believe in beauty, truth and freedom. It also features a very sexy dialogue performed by John Logan.

Liisi is the club’s main attraction, Satine. She has been set up as a Beyonce-style lover goddess.

This would be a stretch for anyone; but LaFontaine’s performance is driven by costume changes and melodramatic flourishes — including clutching furniture for strength, while belting out Adele- sized agonies.

It’s clear that the girl sings well, even though she was allegedly drinking to excess.

However, her love of her Christian and her train-wreck devotion to him barely flickers.

It may have been a hit on Broadway, but Alex Timbers's London production, which was repeatedly stymied by Covid over Christmas, needs more crackle

While it may have been a big hit Broadway, Alex Timbers’s London production was consistently hampered by Covid.

As her impoverished inamorato, Jamie Bogyo — a rangy pin-up with flowing curls — looks the part, but feels way too comfortable in the role.

You can clearly see Breezily in touch with his audience. . . Its execution made me feel satisfied. 

Other than his physical frame, it is possible that he was cast to perform his vocal talents, similar to LaFontaine, who can easily switch between LaFontaine and LaFontaine’s pop songs. 

(Both handle the tricky, shifting register of Elton John’s Your Song — which forms their constant reprise — with aplomb.) Their unlikely connection is something we should not dwell on.

Simon Bailey may also be as nastier than the evil Duke who threatens the club to sell out and take Satine in his own hands.

More company reels are what’s needed. The spinning tops and rainbow-coloured petticoats worn by the dancers prevent us from taking this seriously. Two are instead given: one immediately after the interval and another at the curtain call, which is too late to help the situation.

Some of the most memorable moments are the ones that the supporting characters provide, such as Jason Pennycooke’s romantic Toulouse-Lautrec and Clive Carter playing Zidler, the club’s old, cold MC who brings warmth and camp.

There was too many English cricket greeting scenes on Press Night. Instead, song medleys for four were well executed. We want to see six.

This title must be exclamatory. It’s not enough disreputable without that abandon. 

You will be astonished Chamber Horror stories Musical

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story (Jermyn St). Theatre)

Verdict: A chilling killing


Georgina Brown  

Stephen Dolginoff’s musical chamber-of-horrors may make you reconsider your belief that murder is something one should sing about. 

This two-hander story is compelling because it uses the so-called crime of the [20th]Century’: The kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks in Chicago, 1924, was the catalyst for Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film.

Dolginoff focuses on the complex, transient relationship that this infatuated teenage and Richard Loeb, a fellow student at law, have.

Should you think that killing is not something to sing about, Stephen Dolginoff's chamber-of-horrors musical may change your mind

Stephen Dolginoff’s musical chamber-of-horrors may make you reconsider your belief that murder is something not to be sang about 

Loeb invented murder. Loeb’s idea for murder is to have both boys super-riches and super-clever. However, Loeb thinks they could become Friedrich Nietzsche-style “supermen” and he sets out to create and execute the ultimate, motiveless crime.

As Jack Reitman’s charismatic and crushing Loeb (“You’re too busy to lick my wingstip shoes”) is in psychological thrall with Nietzsche so is Leopold, the obsessive, sophisticated, sadist. They sign a blood contract.

His friendship was important to me. Bart Lambert’s Leopold said that I would do anything he requested.

Benjamin McQuigg’s brilliantly performed piano score of Dolginoff’s urgent, throbbing music creates and drives the emotional undertext that Loeb uses to propel his intellectual, nerveless exercise. 

Most disconcerting is Loeb’s enticement to get Bobby into his car — ‘I know, never talk to strangers… You’ll be safe inside my Roadster’ — sung with such sweetness it is not surprising little Bobby jumped aboard.

Matthew Parker’s focused revival, which is heard as clearly in the small space where it can, sounds all of Matthew Parker’s unmistakable, terrifying, and chilling killing.