Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’

Gordon Cox

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There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience member.

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That’s the unique “special sauce” in “Moulin Rouge!,” according to director Alex Timbers, who appeared on Variety’s Stagecraft podcast with the musical’s book writer, John Logan (“Skyfall,” “Hugo”).

“There are so many musicals where the conceit is that someone is working on the greatest song ever, or the greatest poem or the greatest play ever,” Timbers said. “And then eventually in the second act, they sing that song or they read that poem and you’re like, ‘That’s pretty good.’ But Baz’s crazy conceit is you have not only the greatest pop catalog at [protagonist] Christian the poet’s fingertips, but you have all the deep emotional resonance of, ‘This is the song I fell in love to,’ ‘This is is the song I broke up to.’ Everyone’s relationship to the score is highly personal, and that’s a cool special sauce that I think makes this show really unique.”

Those new additions to the score aren’t the things that are different from the movie that fans know so well. The story, too, has been reimagined for the stage.

“The DNA of the piece is very similar,” Logan said. “It’s a heightened, operatic, cheeky, fun, sexy presentation of the story of Christian and Satine and the demimonde of the Moulin Rouge. But I think the particulars of the narrative are very different. We go in a different direction because the stage both demands that we do that, and allows us to do that.”

On the new episode of Variety’s theater podcast, Logan and Timbers also reveal the songs they had to cut, names the songs each of them added to the mix, and explain how “Moulin Rouge!” is like “Taxi Driver.”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available biweekly in July, August and September, with a weekly schedule resuming in October. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple PodcastsStitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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