“Think back to your first love affair and remember the madness,” muses Christian (played by Aaron Tveit) in Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! The Musical. “Then you’ll understand.” The sentiment neatly sums up the show’s delirious romance, enjoyed by all in the audience of last night’s premiere at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. The song and dance spectacular offers a dizzying glimpse into the glamorous and gritty nightlife of 1890s Paris—a romanticized world brought to life by lavish sets, fabulous costumes (by Catherine Zuber), and a soundtrack with hits that range from The Rolling Stones to Lady Gaga to Rihanna.
Everyone dressed the part in various degrees of razzle-dazzle, which ran the gamut from black tie to ball gowns and sequins galore. One shining example was producer extraordinaire Jordan Roth, who swanned in a magnificent crimson cape modeled after the famous Moulin Rouge windmill. The one-of-a-kind design was dreamed up by Zac Posen, who joined Roth on the star-studded red carpet.
Among the many boldfaced names lining the balcony seats were Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, and Moulin Rouge!(the film) director and writer Baz Luhrmann. The filmmaker was seated next to supermodel Karlie Kloss, who looked perfectly on-theme in a sleek red satin pantsuit. The fashion on-stage, however, was decidedly more scant, as a pair of corseted showgirls sent iPhones flashing with their own sword swallowing performance in the minutes before the curtain went up.
The show opened with a splash opening number set to “Lady Marmalade” that had the crowd whooping and hollering along to “Hey sista’, go sista’, soul sista’, flow sista’,” as if they were at a sing-a-long burlesque club. And maybe it was the dusty theater, but when leading courtesan, Satine (Karen Olivo) aka “The Sparkling Diamond” descended from the ceiling in little more than a bedazzled bustier and a knowing smile, this writer swears she saw one man in the audience who was brought to tears.
“The moment you walk in, you’ve stepped into this grand, gorgeous experience unlike any other,” Olivio told Vogue after the show. “You’re not at the theater anymore. “You’re in for a roller coaster ride. You’re at the Moulin Rouge.” Indeed, following not one, but two standing ovations—and a confetti-drop finish—showgoers hopped on Moulin Rouge!–themed double-decker buses en route to Hammerstein Ballroom, where the bacchanalia continued for the after-party billed as “The Spectacular After the Spectacular.”
Waiters carried floating trays of bubbly topped with white cotton candy garnishes, while bartenders served up absinthe-style speciality cocktails. Meanwhile, what looked like Lady Marmalade herself held court in a hoop skirt lined with Champagne flutes, as guests took turns grabbing a glass and snapping videos as she gleefully posed for the ’gram. Afterward, revelers dined on a feast fit for a Duke as DJ April Hunt spun tracks. The nighttime pleasantries continued until the wee hours as some were hoping for a visit from the Green Fairy.