“Moulin Rouge!” makes sultry, sexy revival of jukebox music

Courtesy of Diana Roth | Pittsburgh Cultural Trust | From left to right, Harper Miles, Libby Lloyd, Nicci Claspell and Andres Quintero dazzle as the Moulin Rouge's seasoned dancers in the North American Tour of "Moulin Rouge! The Musical."

Emily Fritz | a&e editor

“Hyperbole has no place in my heart,” urged Harold Zidler (Robert Petkoff) in Tuesday’s evening performance of “Moulin Rouge! The Muscial” at the Benedum Center.

Complete with vividly colored costumes, layers of petticoats being thrown and undergarments exposed during the infamous can-can, mixed with the blinding and charmingly gauche lighting on set and the Victorian style grandeur, the musical adaptation to the 2001 film did not disappoint.

The production did not feature the standard original score but instead utilized a “jukebox” set list consisting of Pitch Perfect-adjacent mash-ups like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy,” forming “Crazy Rolling.”

Numerous other musical references were made, featuring the talents of pop artists Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, P!nk, Whitney Houston and more.

Some musical renditions molded to the thespian vocal style better than others, with some placed strategically and humourously, and others taking more somber tones.

Only two songs were original works. “The Pitch Song” and “Come What May” both fit the book written by Tony Award winner John Logan and the music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Tony Award winner Justin Levine.

The plot of the musical frankensteins several elements from across other musicals and theatre productions: the proletariat-bourgeoisie struggles of “Les Misérables,” Shakespearean love triangles, the aforementioned dj-ing of 2012 film “Pitch Perfect,” the Gatsby-esque level of shared sins, the popularized movie to Broadway streamline that has taken over and the risque dancing of the original Moulin Rouge of Paris, which celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2019 when the show opened in the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

With the mishmash of elements, it can become easy to get lost in the production.

Despite the enticing and sometimes confusing disarray of pop culture music, the cast blends their unique voices to create enchanting arrangements that induce emotions foreign to their original works.

The North American tour features the talents of Gabrielle McClinton (Satine), Christian Douglas (Christian), Robert Petkoff (Harold Zidler), Nick Rashad Burroughs (Toulouse-Lautrec), Andrew Brewer (The Duke of Monroth), Sarah Bowden (Nini) and Danny Burgos (Santiago).

“It’s easy to believe that Moulin Rouge! The Musical could run for 50 years,” Entertainment Weekly proclaimed.

Despite their high praise, the shelf life of the musical far surrenders their namesake’s long history. Unless the arrangements continue to evolve with well-known jukebox favorites, it’s likely that the show will reach its end long before the greats of Broadway.

While it’s still in vogue and in Pittsburgh, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is worth the night in the Cultural District.

The tour ends its residency at the Benedum Center on Oct. 8. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust still lists performances after and including Friday, Oct. 6 as “best availability” for tickets.

Prices range from $45 to $155 and seats can still be found in the highly-coveted orchestra section as well as the more affordable first and second balcony tiers.

Appreciate the 160 years of music while it lasts, and indulge in the provocative history of the Moulin Rouge, circa 1899. You may just find more cultural references than you’re able to fully comprehend.