From screen to stage: the re-making of 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical'
Ahead of the Broadway premiere of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, on Broadway, Geraldine Higginson spoke to cast member Ricky Rojas about the transformation of this show from film to theatre.
Just days from now, on July 25, Moulin Rouge! The Musical will have its opening night and Broadway debut, at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway, New York. Dance Australia will feature a full-length article on the making of this lush new stage production in the Oct/Nov issue. However, in our own mini-celebration of their upcoming opening night this week, here is an excerpt from the upcoming article to whet your appetite. You won’t want to miss the full feature in our Oct/Nov issue!
When Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! movie-musical premiered in 2001 it blew audiences away. Luhrmann’s virtuosic camera work dropped you, the viewer, in the centre of this colourful and fast-moving movie, and the story unfolded with a whirling intensity, featuring big musical numbers from a wide range of popular music artists – despite being set in Paris almost a century before many of these hit songs were written.
The Moulin Rouge! movie won two Oscars and three Golden Globes, reinventing this classic tale of thwarted love for a new generation and highlighting the breadth and depth of talented Australian creatives and artists who contributed to its global success. Filmed in Sydney’s Fox Studios, which had only opened a couple of years earlier, Moulin Rouge! seemed to give the Australian film and entertainment industry a new lease of life and a burst of confidence as it entered the 21st century. But that was eighteen years ago now.
So how do you go about bringing such an iconic movie to the stage?
What has been kept and changed in the process?
And what is it like to perform in, and be a part of such a show?
Ricky Rojas is an experienced musical theatre performer and citizen of the world. Born in Chile, he was raised in Australia, based in London for many years, and now lives in France. He is, however, “still very much connected to Australia – all my family are still there.” Rojas made his Broadway debut in 2009 with Burn the Floor and is currently playing Santiago the Argentinian (who was played by Jacek Koman in the movie) in Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
According to Ricky, there are a lot of similarities with the movie in terms of how his character was conceived. “Santiago is still a creative, bohemian artist - very passionate, very forward; kind of swashbuckling! He still has a tango scene with Nini – played by the magnificent Robyn Hurder. What is perhaps emphasised more in this musical production is that he is definitely the choreographer of the piece.” By this, Ricky means the show within a show that is developed as a key part of the plot – known as "Spectacular! Spectacular!" in the movie.
When asked what his experience of Moulin Rouge! The Musical has been so far, Ricky said, “I’ve never been involved in anything quite like it – just the scale of this show, both the set and musically. I mean there are 75 songs (which are) mostly performed as medleys or mash-ups. In Boston (where Moulin Rouge! The Musical made its debut last year) the cast all saw Derek McLane’s set at the same time. We all walked into the theatre and our mouths were just…. wide open!” . . .
This is an extract from an article by Geraldine Higginson, which will be published in the October/November 2019 issue of Dance Australia. Don’t miss out! Subscribe to Dance Australia here or Dance Australia at your favourite retail outlet, or online here.
Pictured top: The company of 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical'. Photo: Matthew Murphy, 2019.