Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 Musical Film is Destined for the Stage
When Moulin Rouge! premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, it was the festival’s opening night film and received uproarious acclaim from far and wide. Starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, the film went on to receive eight Oscar nominations, winning two for Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. Reinventing the genre of jukebox musical for the screen, Moulin Rouge! incorporated countless well-known songs ranging from David Bowie to the Beatles, while recombining them into a truly original musical treat with a heartbreaking love story at its core. The show is set in and around a cabaret theatre in the Montmartre district of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. At the same time, it is utterly contemporary due in part to the musical selection, which brings the timelessness of the story to the forefront. While the show is inherently theatrical, due to its musicality, stylized level of performance, and potential for immense creativity in the set design, it also comes with some difficulties that have delayed its stage adaptation. Most blatantly is the challenge of securing rights to the multiple songs that in small bits or long segments are liberally reincorporated into the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. Without the rights to these songs, the show would not be able to hold onto the recognizable songs, and would likely be a huge disappointment to the significant built-in audience of fans of the film.
In any case, the production company Global Creatures is moving ahead with the adaptation. They have just announced two very high-profile members of the key creative team for the stage musical. John Logan, the playwright behind Red, the bookwriter behind Sting’s musical The Last Ship, and the screenwriter behind movies ranging from The Aviator to Skyfall to Sweeney Todd, has been commissioned to write the book for the stage musical of Moulin Rouge! On top of this, the director behind the show will be none other than Alex Timbers, the wunkerkind director now well into his 30s whose previous directorial credits include Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher, Here Lies Love, and Rocky. He also made the news recently with the announcement that he is no longer attached to the musical stage adaptation of the Disney animated film Frozen, which he was also slated to direct. The production company, Global Creatures, has also previously adapted another of Baz Luhrmann’s films for the stage, the much less known story Strictly Ballroom, which premiered on Luhrmann’s home turf of Australia in 2013 and will also open in the West End this upcoming November, followed by a run in Toronto in April 2017. Global Creatures was also behind Rocky, hence the relationship with Alex Timbers, as well as the film franchieses Walking with Dinosaurs and Train Your Dragon.
Not Yet Announced: Cast and Premiere Locale
It is only the early stages yet for Moulin Rouge! The Musical. The project was only released to the press to announce these two creative team members, and the announcement was made simultaneously in both the United States and Australia. Therefore, it is unclear whether the show will premiere in Australia, like Strictly Ballroom, or whether it will aim for the big lights of Broadway first, perhaps with an out-of-town tryout in a regional theatre first. Not only have the premiere city and venue not been announced, but the production timeline is also still unknown. It is possible the show is only a year out from seeing the stage, but it could also be much longer or perhaps shorter. Finally, it is still a big mystery who will portray these timeless characters onstage; a long casting process is still ahead for Logan, Luhrmann, Timbers, and Global Creatures.