While the movies Moulin Rouge and Burlesque may have had their detractors, there is no denying the singing and dancing was what made each a success.
The same can be said for Speakeasy Theatre's production of Le Burlesque Au Moulin where they have combined the storylines of the two movies into one show.
A bohemian artiste in the Montmartre district of Paris falls for a small-town singer trying to make it big in the Paris nightclub scene, in particular at Club Le Burlesque Au Moulin. The club is suffering financial difficulties but is eventually saved by a sleazy entrepreneur who asks favours of the dancers in return for investing in the club.
Through this story they have cleverly incorporated many of the musical numbers from the two movies. But while the dialogue is rather trite in places and lacks any real punch or drama, it does hold together as a story reasonably well, especially with the song and dance routines.
There is also a clown figure that acts as a type of MC, a bit like the Toulouse-Lautrec figure in Moulin Rouge.
In this role Ben Priest is excellent, animated and engaging with his delightful French accent, as well as his superb singing voice; his two numbers Nature Boy and Complainte de la Butte are some of the standout moments in the show.
Yet Priest was underused as a performer and with more creative direction could easily have been used to link the scenes with music rather than the interminable silent blackouts that robbed the show of continuity.
Other singers of note were Janelle Pollock as the club's Madame, Cassandra Tse as the one trying to make it into the club, Sheree Moanaroa as the bitch and Jesse Finn as the lovelorn artiste.
But the highlight of the production is the dancing and the six dancers under choreographer Stacey Neale, who also dances, create some wonderfully sassy and energised dance routines in keeping with the show's theme, the climax and highlight being El Tango de Roxanne with Waylon Edwards as a superb Argentinian tango dancer.
This is a show that, for the most part, works and with its original concept and spirited performances provides a great evening's entertainment.
Le Burlesque Au Moulin, directed by Stuart James. Musical director Bruno Shirley, choreographer Stacey Neale
Gryphon Theatre, Wellington, until October 13
Reviewed by Ewen Colema
- © Fairfax NZ News
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