Moulin Rouge! The Musical is the reigning Tony-winning Best Musical on Broadway, taking home 10 trophies, including one for director Alex Timbers. His other Broadway credits include Beetlejuice, American Utopia (as a production consultant), Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Rocky, The Pee-Wee Herman Show, Peter and the Starcatcher and Oh, Hello. They showcase his versatility and knack for transporting audiences as soon as they enter the theater. Timbers met up with Broadway.com Managing Editor Beth Stevens in the VIP Lounge at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre to talk about the process of bringing Baz Luhrmann’s well-loved 2001 movie to the stage.
“Baz was an incredible theater maker before he was an incredible filmmaker, and so he was very open to the idea of saying, ‘This is an adaptation. This has to have different needs and rules,'” Timbers said. “It felt like you were breaking any other original musical, as opposed to adapting one of the great movie musicals of all time.”
With the Al Hirschfeld Theatre decked out in Derek McLane’s Tony-winning set design and Catherine Zuber’s Tony-winning costumes worn by performers offering pre-show greetings to guests, the show is a feast for the eyes even as the audience enters the space. “From moment one, the theatrical envelope had to be the club,” Timbers said. “We wanted the experience to be democratic. We wanted—if you’re sitting in the last row of the balcony—to feel like you surrounded by that world. It wasn’t just the world of the stage or just the world for the people sitting in house seats. We want it to feel like an incredible nightclub: the Moulin Rouge that didn’t exist, but you kind of dreamed of existing.”
With a score of chart-toppers from Lady Gaga to Katy Perry, Moulin Rouge! is a crowd pleaser for both theater aficionados and newcomers. “One of the things that I really care about as someone who loves theater is when theater feels like it’s in dialogue with popular culture and popular music,” Timbers said. “I remember the first show that hooked me so hard was Tommy, seeing music video visuals on stage and a score that connected with people who love musical theater with those who have thought they didn’t love musical theater until that moment. That’s the stuff that really gets me excited.”
Watch the interview below, and head here to check your local listings for The Broadway Show. Hosted by Emmy-winning anchor Tamsen Fadal, it is the only nationally syndicated weekly theater news program.