Forget everything you think you know about Moulin Rouge.
Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet brought an entirely different story to the Staller Main Stage than that presented by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in the 2001 film.
The Moulin Rouge was a popular Parisian cabaret in the late nineteenth century. It became famous as the place where the Can-can was invented.
There are several stories about the club. In this version, the launderette Nathalie (Jo-Ann Sundermeier) catches the eye of the Moulin Rouge’s owner Zidler (Eric Nipp). He becomes insanely jealous when Nathalie falls in love with a painter named Matthew (Harrison James) who has recently arrived in Paris, and shenanigans ensue.
Ballet is an extremely emotional art form. Essentially, a ballet performance should be an emotionally moving play without words. It is particularly suited to tragedy, and Moulin Rouge is certainly that.
RWB also managed to make much of the production amusing. For instance, when Matthew arrives in Paris, he meets the famous painter Toulouse-Lautrec (Yosuke Mino), and the two have a painting duel. Duels are difficult to show in dance—as is painting. A combination of the two is stunning.
This production was all about details. The elaborate and versatile set and costumes were indispensable to the spectacle. Some of the best scenes featured many dancers in vibrant skirts twirling madly—because it simply wouldn’t be the Moulin Rouge without the Can-can.
A few of the scenes were reminiscent of the 2001 film. There was a group tango scene, which was very similar to the Tango de Roxanne from the movie. Yet, because it was tango mixed with ballet, the scene still seemed utterly original.
The acting and dancing abilities of the performers were impressive. Occasionally the action was interpretive to the point of confusion, but this happened rarely, and that is why there is a synopsis of events in the program.
One of the most beautiful scenes was the duet between Nathalie and Matthew where they fall in love dancing by the Eiffel Tower. Even the most unromantic person would sigh contentedly at that.
The audience gave the dancers a fully deserved standing ovation.