Tony Awards 2021: Everything Broadway’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’ Changed From the Baz Luhrmann Movie
Moulin Rouge! The Musical could win big at the 2021 Tony Awards on Sept. 26. The show is based on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, but the two pieces are actually quite different. Ahead of Broadway’s biggest night, here’s everything that Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! changed from its movie musical source material, starting with the drastically different soundtrack.
‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ Broadway soundtrack
The Moulin Rouge! movie soundtrack is iconic. Luhrmann’s experiment of using popular songs from several decades to tell the tragic love story of Christian and Satine was unlike anything audiences had seen at the time. With new musical direction and arrangements, the songs took on new meaning to serve the plot. And the resulting music has stayed memorable over the last 20 years.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical aimed to set itself apart from the source material by making its own soundtrack of pop music. Some of the songs from the Moulin Rouge! movie are in Broadway’s Moulin Rouge!, like “El Tango De Roxanne,” “Your Song,” “Come What May,” and “Lady Marmalade.” The “Elephant Love Medley” — one of the most famous numbers from the movie — is in the musical as well. But don’t let the song title fool you. Their medley uses some of the songs in Luhrmann’s, but it’s largely an all new medley. “Love Hurts,” “Take On Me,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” are some of the songs the musical used in the medley.
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” are not in the musical either. “Firework,” “Chandelier,” “Crazy,” “Rolling In the Deep,” and “Singles Ladies” are. The intention with the changes was to use songs that have become popular in the years since the original movie came out. It’s also possible the musical couldn’t get the rights to use some of the songs in the movie.
While Satine singing “Firework” and Harold Zidler (Danny Burstein) singing “Chandelier” are very cheesy choices (let’s be honest here…) one highlight from the Moulin Rouge! musical soundtrack is the act two opening number, “Backstage Romance.” The show-stopping medley showcases Nini and Santiago in a sultry tango. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic” are the mains song used, and the number is all about the passionate, but toxic relationships of the Moulin Rouge performers.
Broadway’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’ ending
Some parts of 2001’s Moulin Rouge! haven’t aged well. The Bollywood-themed “Spectacular Spectacular” appropriates Indian culture. And Nicole Kidman’s Satine is lied to about her terminal illness so the theater can continue making money off of its star. The musical changes these things by removing the Bollywood element of “Spectacular Spectacular” and giving Satine more control over her own life.
Played by Karen Olivo in the original Broadway cast and now Natalie Mendoza (Olivo left the show in protest of Broadway’s paltry reaction to the abuse allegations against Scott Rudin), Satine has full agency in the musical. She doesn’t dream of leaving the Moulin Rouge for a “better” life — she’s happy with her life as a performer and sex worker. She still doesn’t believe in love and sees sex and marrying rich as a way to secure stability.
The show also changed the Duke’s character to make him less smarmy and detestable. And Satine’s relationship with him has already begun when she meets Christian — she’s even slept with the Duke and considers a life with him. But she’s warned against it by Nini, who knows the truth about his controlling nature.
Satine still dies at the end of Moulin Rouge! The Musical. But Christian’s ending is notably changed. His heartbreak over the possibility of Satine choosing the Duke over him pushes Christian (Aaron Tveit) to the edge, and Satine has to talk him down from making a decision he can’t take back. She dies shortly after.
‘Moulin Rouge!’ Tony Award nominations
The 2021 Tony Awards the first Tony Awards since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shut down Broadway. So every nominated show opened in the 2019-2020 season. Moulin Rouge! is up for Best Musical and has 14 Tony nominations total. And it seems a shoo-in to win at least one of them, as Tveit is the only actor in the Lead Actor in a Musical category. However, Tveit could still lose even though he’s the only nominee. He has to have secured a certain percentage of the votes to win, per Tonys rules.
Olivo is also nominated for Lead Actress in a Musical, but they will not be attending the award ceremony for the same reasons they left Broadway in the first place, as they told the Los Angeles Times. The other Best Musical nominees are Jagged Little Pill and Tina – The Tina Turner Musical.
The 2021 Tony Awards start at 7 p.m. ET exclusively on Paramount+. The Broadway’s Back! concert will start at 9 p.m. on Paramount+ and CBS. The winners for Best Musical, Best Play, and Best Revival of a Play will be announced during Broadway’s Back.