Profile: Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (2021)

Can you say spectacle?

A new jukebox musical on Broadway, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge! with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. And like the film, this show is excessive. Full stop.

From the show’s website:

Enter a world of splendor and romance, of eye-popping excess, of glitz, grandeur, and glory! A world where Bohemians and aristocrats rub elbows and revel in electrifying enchantment. Baz Luhrmann’s revolutionary film comes to life onstage, remixed in a new musical mash-up extravaganza.

If the musical’s source didn’t provide enough of a tip that this was a different type of production, here’s the unrecognizable Al Hirschfeld Theatre:

For tech fans, Moulin Rouge‘s exuberance extends to its technological backbone. Anchoring the show’s sound are two LEOPARD line arrays from Meyer Sound hidden behind appropriately-themed covers along the proscenium. A cluster of UPQ point source speakers are hung between the arrays, providing additional down fill coverage for the orchestra section.

For those in the orchestra, several speakers can be seen handling front fill duty, including X40s and UPMs.

Heading underneath the mezzanine, the delay system is handled by two rings of speakers, with the first ring composed of UP-4XPs. These smaller speakers provide support in addition to the main LEOPARD arrays.

The subsequent ring relies on UPJuniors and MM-10 subwoofers. Since this section remains out of the LEOPARD’s coverage area, these speakers provide the bulk of the support for this section of the audience.

One level above, fill speakers for the mezzanine include MSL-4s and UPJs.

Considering the size and output of the box, seeing the MSL-4 in a Broadway show is an amazing sight. At Moulin Rouge, the boxes are mounted on a custom yoke with their grilles removed.

For those in the balcony, additional UPQs round out the system – also without their grilles.

For lighting, Moulin Rouge makes heavy use of the SolaWash 2000 from High End Systems with VL3500Q Spots from Vari-Lite. These fixtures are sprinkled across the theater, including a large cluster above the orchestra and another substantial hang in front of the mezzanine.

Some fixtures – like this SolaWash 2000 with a custom paint job – are also embedded within the set. If you look closely, you can also see a ZCL 360i from Elation and an Impression X4 XL from GLP in the scenery below.

Finally, MAC Auras from Martin are embedded within the audience area, providing effects and mood lighting during the show. While many Broadway shows don’t like to call attention to away from the stage during the show, Moulin fully embraces its venue with lighting effects throughout the production.

So as you can probably tell, Moulin Rouge resembles a production you’d more likely see on the Vegas Strip than on Broadway. If you’re someone who welcomes variety, this isn’t a bad thing. But Broadway purists may be turned off by the sheer and unapologetic use of technology as part of the show rather than as a tool used to enhance it.

That’s not to say Moulin Rouge doesn’t follow traditional musical norms – it does. While large musical numbers are loud and in your face, dialogue remains mixed with minimal amplification like most traditional Broadway productions. This effect can be jarring considering the variance in volume, but it’s something that most audience members won’t notice.

Oh, and speaking of volume, this show is loud. Sometimes shows feature large systems to provide adequate coverage, not necessarily volume. Moulin Rouge does both. This Meyer system is both complex and extravagant, with dozens of boxes arranged throughout the theater from several product families into one holistic system. The result is a loud but intelligible system that shows no signs of strain.

Even more impressive is this system’s ability to provide low frequency impact throughout the theater. As an aside, I’ve always avoided sitting deep underneath the mezzanine for two reasons. First, you’re relying on delay rings. Second, low frequency energy usually dissipates as you head deeper into the theater. Add the two together and you sometimes get a very thin but intelligible mix the further you head back. Moulin fixes that issue by supplying UPJuniors and MM-10 miniature subwoofers as their delay system. While delay subwoofers are frequently used in theaters, they are rarely used deep into the delay system in numbers like they are here. It’s safe to say the impact of the show is preserved regardless of where you sit.

By any standard, lighting for Moulin Rouge is extravagant. For Broadway, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Lighting is very much a character in the show – time period be dammed – and it’s used to turn the Al Hirschfeld Theatre into a Paris-themed nightclub. Here, the fixtures are permitted to stand on their own with concert-grade effects front and center. Like the audio mix, this doesn’t mean the fixtures are at full tilt throughout the show. Rather, Moulin isn’t afraid to flex its lighting muscles if only to produce an effect. Fixtures from High End Systems and GLP produce some pretty stunning effects and the VL3500s – despite their age – prove once more why they remain a fixture on the musical circuit.

Which brings me to Moulin Rouge as a show. If you’re familiar with the film, you’d probably appreciate the spirit of this production. No, it’s not a scene-by-scene recreation of the 2001 film. Instead, I’d consider it a faithful recreation of Baz Luhrmann’s exuberance and intent. Yes, at its core, this is a jukebox musical. Among theater fans, this can be a pejorative term. But I’d like to think of this show as something a little more. No, this isn’t a show that’s going to make you think. But I do think this is a show that will allow you to have some fun.

After all, spectacles do have their place and Moulin Rouge is certainly a spectacle.

Equipment list:

  • High End Systems SolaWash 2000
  • Vari-Lite VL3500Q
  • Elation ZCL 360i
  • GLP Impression X4 XL
  • Martin MAC Aura
  • Meyer Sound LEOPARD
  • Meyer Sound UPQ
  • Meyer Sound MSL-4
  • Meyer Sound ULTRA-X40
  • Meyer Sound UPJ
  • Meyer Sound UPJunior
  • Meyer Sound UPM
  • Meyer Sound UP-4XP
  • Meyer Sound MM-10

These photos were taken on December 12, 2021 in New York, New York.