All that song and dance that is 'Moulin Rouge'

All that song and dance that is 'Moulin Rouge'


All that song and dance that is 'Moulin Rouge'

With everybody on stage breaking into a jig and dance at the slightest turn of events, you might just begin to think that you are in a discotheque, and get an attack of dancitis. Only when the music stops do you begin to remember that there is a play on. 

The story of Moulin Rouge is so simple and sketchy that you might loose track of it even during the two hours of watching the play. The play is the stage version of Australian director’s Baz Luhrmann’s cult movie musical (which incidentally was inspired by the singing-dancing Bollywood love sagas) released in 2001, Moulin Rouge.

The story is a take off from the myth of Orpheus: Young and struggling writer Christian, who is working on a new play, falls in love with Satine, a courtesan, who mistakes him for a Duke. She too falls in love with him — a love that continues even after she understands that her ‘Duke’ is actually a pauper. Now she woos the real Duke to fund their play… 

But you do have to give credit to young Denver Anthony Nicholas and his team for bringing on to the Indian stage a full-fledged, high-adrenaline, live-band English musical, the famous Moulin Rouge at that. Especially so, considering that this team of young theatre enthusiasts made for a great audio impact, if not an emotional one. While musicals have been happening in the city before, the effect of the live band and the scale of this venture was spectacular. 

So far, the stage had seen Denver as choreographer — in Grease, Little Mermaid, Romeo and Juliet, etc. With Moulin Rouge, Denver slips into his directorial avatar. Denver went along with the original screenplay of the musical, just adding more length to some of the songs. The debutant director’s modus operandi? “I wanted the scenes to roll on seamlessly so the audience doesn’t get bored and fidgety,” Denver says. No long gaps — which meant that the breaks were restricted to five seconds. Now, this explains the minimalist sets.
It was the music of Moulin Rouge which hit Denver first, with its songs from Elton John to Police, and Lady Marmalade. Within minutes, Denver got hooked to recreating Moulin Rouge on stage. “I love the story, but being a choreographer, the songs got to me,” says Denver. Moulin Rouge had its own choir, directed by Anisha Varghese, while the seven-member orchestra was directed by Shaun Roberts (of Molotov Cocktail fame).

Roberts’s band ‘Midnight Groove’ with Meynard Grant on drums, Balaji on rhythm and percussion, Timothy George and Nelson Samuel on keyboards, Vikram Vivekanand on guitar and Shaun on bass and guitar synthesizer gave some high voltage music to keep a voluminous company for the choir. The dance movements were all Bollywood. 

This Chennai production was under the banner Nicholas Productions floated by choreographer Denver along with late Roshni Menon, who was handling the financing for the play. With Roshni’s sudden demise 20 days before the show, Denver’s family, friends and even the cast of Moulin Rouge chipped in with money and the production was back on road. “We thought that the best tribute we could give her was to make her dream come true”.

Denver is looking to take his play to cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Meanwhile, he is already planning for his next production. “I love musicals because it brings the basic three elements of stage art together — acting, singing and dancing,” signs off Denver. Now, add to that live, high-energy music.