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If These Were Musicals: Part 2: Moulin Rouge & Bombshell

Gianfranco Lentini continues his wish list of film to stage adaptations. logo

Promotional art for the film of Moulin Rouge (© Twentieth Century Fox)

Welcome back, folks!

Last week I unveiled my ideas for staged adaptations of both Tangled and Anastasia - two animated shows. (If you missed it, click here to read!) This week however, I'm bringing the discussion to live action.

Let's get right to it!

Moulin Rouge- This 2001 production starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor was the talk of Hollywood when it became the first musical nominated for Best Picture in 10 years. Continuing on to win two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and three BAFTA Awards, this movie -- featuring music from Elton John, Madonna, and even The Sound of Music -- became Baz Luhrmann's best work to date. So naturally, it's no surprise that the attempt to adapt this movie to stage has been rumored for years and was also tried in Germany.

Representing all things bohemian, Moulin Rouge opens on the Montmarte district of Paris, where the alcohol flows and prostitution is an accepted form of entertainment. Everywhere you look, or rather everywhere the camera pans, there are hundreds of lights and rich, wonderful colors lining every surface. Both a lighting designer's and a set designer's dream, adapting Moulin Rouge to the stage would allow for many liberties from design and placement of the iconic red windmill to the Can Can performance space to the set-within-a-set for "Spectacular Spectacular."

Observing Moulin Rouge from a playwright's perspective, its book contains everything needed to make a successful musical. There's influence from Hindi, European, and Greek culture (whether it's noticeable in the design or text), a massive storyline that eventually weaves itself into a story-within-a-story, and two incredibly detailed protagonists fighting against an equally strong antagonist. The musical numbers are numerous and only heighten the show's adrenaline leading up to the climax, and the stage directions seen within the movie during both the dance numbers and conversational pieces are enough to light any stage aflame.

But now time for the drum roll! The cast list is in, and here we go: Sierra Boggess (Love Never Dies) as Satine, Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom of the Opera) or Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) as Christian, Joel Grey (Anything Goes) as Toulouse-Lautrec (Note: this is an older take on the character, but one that I feel would fit very well), John Larroquette (How to Succeed) as Harold Zidler, and Patrick Wilson (The Full Monty) as the Duke.

My question I pose to you: Do you have a theater in mind that you think would best house Moulin Rouge?

Now, before I end my thoughts for this week, I want to wrap up with a little discussion about a notable show that's been getting mixed reviews in the theater community: Smash.

Needing no introduction, we've basically all heard by now "Let Me Be Your Star," "The 20th Century Fox Mambo," and "Don't Forget Me," and we can hear the famous Marilyn Monroe voice on repeat in our heads. But for a show as successful as Smash, which has brought great attention to theater in general, there seems to be a great deal of hesitance towards the idea of Bombshell, the name of the musical the show is centered around, coming anywhere near a Broadway stage.

Yes, members of the theater community hold fast to the idea that stardom is a result of hard work and talent, but they also believe that it should come from within the community itself and not from an outside source such as television. I've heard many of the same old conspiracies about monopolizing Broadway with a celebritized trap such as Bombshell - the fear that yet another celebrity will take the spotlight from an anonymous actor working their way to the top.

I pose these questions for thought: A) Doesn't Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, and the rest of the cast exemplify real Broadway talent? B) Is there not an actual storyline present (though faint [in my opinion])? C) From clips that we've been shown of a staged production within the realms of the show, is there not a single aspect from music to set to costuming that ignites a spark of interest with you, the viewer?

In the end, the fact is that there is no current discussion of bringing Bombshell to Broadway, so maybe, after all, the questions I ask are moot, and television is just television.

As always I welcome your thoughts, and until next time, au revoir!


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