HomeSandpiper SelectsStage adaptation of ‘Moulin Rouge!’ reinvents the pop musical

Stage adaptation of ‘Moulin Rouge!’ reinvents the pop musical

BY MICHAEL LAKIND

Eighteen years had passed between the premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s groundbreaking film and the opening of Broadway’s hottest new musical. Now with enough power and wow-factor to light up a continent, the revamped and remastered album has arrived: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical: Original Broadway Cast Recording.”

Justin Levine was charged with the daunting task of rebuilding the beloved movie musical for an entirely different medium. His monumental role was to hand-select all 71 songs—you read that right—that are included or sampled from, compose the vocal arrangements for each song, write additional lyrics for the base songs and orchestrate the entire show.

One of Levine’s most notable choices was to revise the film’s instrumentations. The original soundtrack took more classical orchestral forms, with a few exceptions, such as the Chris Cornell-esque guitar in “Children of the Revolution” (which Levine seamlessly integrated with radio staples “Royals” and “We Are Young”) and the engine-revving vibes in the David Bowie/Massive Attack remix of “Nature Boy,” now a stunningly intimate acoustic ballad. Levine’s pop/rock setup sparks the image of Panic! at the Disco and Coldplay having a musical child. He impressively balances earth-shattering bass riffs with horns and synthesizers to open with “Welcome to the Moulin Rouge!” which clocks in just under eight minutes. Technology benefits the new album, as it is digitally mixed and edited to carry a much cleaner, fuller and more cohesive sound than that of the film’s soundtrack.

The album boasts an expansive songbook of pop hits with instantly recognizable yet brilliantly adapted versions of “Chandelier” by Sia, Katy Perry’s “Firework” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” from Beyoncé. Devoted fans of the film will not be disappointed. Levine made sure to reinstate the film’s iconic songs; “Lady Marmalade,” “El Tango de Roxanne” and “Your Song” are back and better than ever thanks to the immensely talented Broadway company.

Over the course of nineteen tracks, Levine presents a widespread fro-yo toppings bar of music with ingenious recipes never designed anywhere else prior. “Backstage Romance” opens the second act with more repeat value and more jaw-dropping electricity than any song in musical theater by taking Lady Gaga’s chart-topper “Bad Romance” and layering in a short vocal sample from Ed Cobb’s “Tainted Love,” the main riff of “Seven Nation Army” and exhilarating verses from both “Toxic” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Broadway star Aaron Tveit and Tony winner Karen Olivo were chosen for the roles of Christian and Satine, originated by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. The pair puts out song after song filled with endless vocal prowess and chemistry. Olivo conjures Beyoncé in her star-studded queen of a character opposite Tveit, the Bruno Mars of Broadway. Their poise is simply undeniable in unforgettable duets such as “Elephant Love Medley,” featuring 21 distinct and surprising pieces to close out act one, or “Crazy Rolling,” a daring, show-stopping crossover of anthems by Gnarls Barkley and Adele.

By creatively collaborating with Luhrmann and producing the album with his record label, Levine was able to retain the magical spectacle of the “Spectacular Spectacular,” while successfully reimagining it for a brand-new audience.

Do not be deterred by the theatrical genre label. “Moulin Rouge!” should be put in your queue faster than you can say “Truth Beauty Freedom Love.”

Courtesy of HOUSE OF IONA RC RECORDS

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