For many, myself included, Moulin Rouge! is the kind of movie that still occupies a soft place in our hearts. It altered the way we viewed the musical movie, opening our eyes to the more radical possibilities of storytelling in that medium. And it gave us Ewan McGregor singing an Elton John classic so … could we really complain?
That being said, while I personally am anticipating the new Broadway production, I’ve had my worries. We saw our first glimpse in a Valentine’s day ad and to say I was excited would be an understatement. My biggest concern, however, has been that the show is going to be very different from what I’ve come to know, and it’s hard to know how to feel about it. Baz Luhrmann apparently was similarly inclined, so he stepped back from the stage production to give it new room to breathe. His perspective is wonderful to read, and important for fans of the movie.
Moulin Rouge! is a unique beast because it changed the way a movie musical could play out. It dabbled in both the campy nature we’ve come to love in movies like Singin’ in the Rain and ushered to life a heartbreaking, larger-than-life spectacle that we could take (at least somewhat) seriously. At that time, there hadn’t been a movie like Moulin Rouge!, and that was one of the driving forces behind Luhrmann’s inspiration.
But now, in 2019, Luhrmann recognizes that he isn’t the one who was meant to bring the film to life on Broadway:
When it came to bringing Moulin Rouge! the movie to the stage, I knew I wasn’t the right person to reinterpret something I made years ago. Because, in fact, there’s now a whole generation of younger artists who have a purer relationship with the work than I do.
I feared I might be inclined to protect every choice that was made in the original work as if it were somehow sacred, but that is the antithesis of art. Any good story needs to be interpreted in different places, in different ways, for different times. Recoded, if you like. So I made the conscious decision to hand the work over and, instead of being the birther, to become something of an uncle to the project.
Since Moulin Rouge! as my favorite movie, I’ve often entrusted my love to anything Baz Luhrmann does. To see his letter to the musical, praising the production and what it stands for—even if we’ll be getting a Moulin Rouge! that is “recoded,” as it were—my excitement for the production has grown immensely, and I can’t wait to see what lies in store.
“It was one of the more thrilling things in my recent experiences to discover that the preposterous conceit of Moulin Rouge! had not only survived, but flourished! Once more, a Bohemian poet made his way to the underworld, and when he opened his mouth to convey his genius through poetry, all manner of popular music poured forth in remixes and mash-ups of songs we all know.”
You can read the full, lovely letter that Baz Luhrmann wrote on Broadway Direct. It’s a beautiful nod to the show, which appears ready to take us to new places that are bound to break our hearts all over again.
(via Broadway Direct, image: screengrabbed from the official Moulin Rouge Twitter)
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