How Baz Luhrmann and His Tony-Nominated Team Brought ‘Moulin Rouge!’ to Broadway

Gordon Cox
·3-min read

After “Moulin Rouge!” on Broadway, could “Romeo + Juliet” be the next Baz Luhrmann film to get the stage treatment?

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

Maybe, according to Luhrmann himself, speaking at a special “Variety Streaming Room” event for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” (and presented in audio form as part of the “Stagecraft” podcast). “Almost all my shows could end up on a stage quite easily,” he said. “I mean, ‘Strictly Ballroom'” — already a stage musical — “and ‘Romeo + Juliet,’ I’m thinking about doing that. ‘Gatsby’ could easily be a stage production. … And even my current piece I’m working on [a new film about Elvis Presley] could easily end up on a stage.”

Luhrmann joined his Tony-nominated Broadway musical’s creators and stars to discuss the making of the musical, and how, after a tumultuous year that has darkened theaters around the world, the message of “Moulin Rouge!” feels even more relevant than ever.

“Overwhelmingly, the theme of the show is about the bohemian ideal,” Luhrmann explained. “Now that’s said in a comic way — ‘Truth, beauty, freedom and love’ — but I think, even particularly in the world we are in now. … People have no creative work. Things are bad. Shakespeare knew things were bad when you had to close theaters. And so I think about young [people], the ideals and the idea of creative ideals and fighting to put on a show and tell a story that has a point to it: That means something that uplifts the spirit.”

After Luhrmann’s introductory remarks, he passed the baton to the Broadway show’s creative team: director Alex Timbers, writer John Logan, music supervisor Justin Levine and choreographer Sonya Tayeh, who discussed navigating the story’s transition from screen to stage, and walked their audience step-by-step through the creation of the show’s splashy opening number.

Those creatives were soon joined by the Tony-nominated members of the “Moulin Rouge!” cast. Karen Olivo (“In the Heights,” “West Side Story”) talked about bringing grit and complexity to the character of Satine, while Aaron Tveit (“Next to Normal,” “Catch Me if You Can”) discussed approaching pop songs as soul-baring character numbers and Danny Burstein (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “Cabaret”) revealed how the show gives him the chance to show sides of himself he’s never shown onstage.

Meanwhile, Sahr Ngaujah (“Fela!”) talked about the expansion of his character, Toulouse-Lautrec, into a more integral element of the story, while Robyn Hurder explained what it takes to keep in shape for her physically demanding role.

Everyone on the panel went on to discuss how they’re staying active and creative during the pandemic — and how much they’re looking forward to the day when they could all perform onstage together again.

To hear to the full panel discussion, listen at the link above, or download and subscribe to Stagecraft on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

More from Variety

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.