The week in theatre: Moulin Rouge! The Musical; Conundrum – review | Theatre

Tright here isn’t any hassle on the mill. No less than so far as Alex Timbers’s manufacturing of Moulin Rouge! The Musical goes. Image-book belle époque Paris takes over the Piccadilly: swags of crimson velvet and ropes of white fairy lights loop across the auditorium; one of many packing containers has been made right into a champagne bar. On stage, behind the ultra-bright gilt of the proscenium arch, filigree ironwork surrounds huge scarlet hearts that contract and increase, one inside the different, pulsing to virtually nonstop love songs.

Truly, a beating, bleeding coronary heart isn’t what Moulin Rouge! has. True, John Logan’s script, based mostly on Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie, is sprinkled with emotional triggers. The heroine is consumptive, coughing up into her hanky a crimson coronary heart neat sufficient to make any barista proud. The villain who desires to purchase her is swaggeringly repellent, and booed panto-style at curtain name. The heroine’s real love is a younger composer stored from his adored one by poverty. But I doubt any audiences can be squeezing out tears. The plot isn’t the purpose of this extravaganza: it’s a whirling machine in which set (Derek McLane), choreography (by Sonya Tayeh, with Sophie Carmen-Jones because the excellent dancer) and music lavishly fuse.

This mill grinds – and sure, there’s a little bit of that, what with the fishnets and satin and rhinestones and bustiers and lengthy legs whipping over one another – exceeding small, delivering its songs largely bitesize.

Simon Bailey’s silky, swaggering baddie will get fairly an extended crack at Sympathy for the Satan; Liisi LaFontaine, the heroine who swings down (actually) glowing throughout, provides a full rendering of Diamonds Are a Lady’s Greatest Buddy, with no Monroe ambiguity – she makes you consider these stones are indispensable buddies for her bosom. Within the discovery of the night, Jamie Bogyo – beguiling in his stage debut – gently lands Your Music, whereas Jason Pennycooke’s properly edgy Toulouse-Lautrec sends up a lovelorn echo.

Primarily, although, you don’t get greater than – effectively – a snatch of every music. In Justin Levine’s speedy musical association, no sooner have just a few notes of 1 lyric been heard than one other takes its place: Woman Gaga (Unhealthy Romance), Celine Dion, Beyoncé, Bizet, The Sound of Music, La Vie en Rose and, in fact, in a froth of frilly petticoats, Offenbach.

The sharp concept is to create a jukebox musical that’s like an precise jukebox quite than a single-authored album, and which units continuous spot-the-song challenges. The concept has a neat twist: the composer hero is dreaming them up for his breakthrough musical. He’s going to name it Bohemian Rhapsody.

All through the 70-odd minutes of Conundrum, I felt as if I used to be watching not a lot a play as an audition speech, a sequence of declarations in which each author (Paul Anthony Morris) and actor (Anthony Ofoegbu) sign their intentions and capacities quite than show them.

There may be an irony right here, since Morris’s play – which he directs in a co-production between the Younger Vic and its affiliate firm, Crying in the Wilderness Productions – is concerning the failure to fulfil potential. Ofoegbu performs an exceptionally gifted man, black in a white-run world, who has absorbed the low opinion visited on him by those that have all his life denied him prizes and turned him down for jobs. Frequently instructed to rein in his “lofty concepts”, he has begun to curtail his personal aspirations. He talks to a therapist on-line, is sometimes jabbed by a person in a white coat, however largely paces round, urging himself to an existential confrontation: “Who am I?” There may be ache and psychological fact, however no nuance. Nothing is merely urged; each doubt is excavated, usually greater than as soon as. Even the slate ground, lined in his handwritten feedback, provides to the repetition.

Anthony Ofoegbu in Conundrum.
Anthony Ofoegbu in Conundrum: ‘a sequence of declarations’. {Photograph}: Marc Brenner

Ofoegbu, who, aside from uncommon appearances by the jabbing man, is alone on stage, is given loads of alternative to show his ingenuity. Patiently forceful, he clambers over imaginary obstacles, beats his arms towards a hostile wind, produces a infantile voice and a wild, determined one. But he can not make a compelling character out of a blizzard of abstractions.

Star scores (out of 5)
Moulin Rouge ★★★★
Conundrum ★★

  • Moulin Rouge is on the Piccadilly theatre, London, till 28 Could

  • Conundrum is on the Younger Vic, London, till 4 February

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