Luhrmann Working on Stage Versions of Ballroom and Moulin

News   Luhrmann Working on Stage Versions of Ballroom and Moulin Will Baz Luhrmann's Golden Globe winning movie musical "Moulin Rouge" become a Tony-winning stage musical? It's not out of the realm of possibility. The auteur told the New York Post Jan. 22 that he was working on a stage version of "Moulin Rouge," which is becoming one of the most honored movies of 2001. He also said a theatrical rendition of his earlier film "Strictly Ballroom" was underway.

Will Baz Luhrmann's Golden Globe winning movie musical "Moulin Rouge" become a Tony-winning stage musical? It's not out of the realm of possibility. The auteur told the New York Post Jan. 22 that he was working on a stage version of "Moulin Rouge," which is becoming one of the most honored movies of 2001. He also said a theatrical rendition of his earlier film "Strictly Ballroom" was underway.

Luhrmann's statements follow the news that his post-modern production of Puccini's La Boheme will be heard on Broadway Dec. 8 at the Broadway Theatre.

"Strictly Ballroom" (1992) told the story of how a talented and impudent Australian ballroom dancer and his partner buck the typical rules binding traditional dancing competitions to win the Australian Pan Pacific Championships.

In "Moulin Rouge," Luhrmann created a hybrid movie musical, setting contemporary songs against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris' legendary demi-monde club. Nicole Kidman plays Satine, the place's famous singer and courtesan, and the object of Ewan McGregor's affections.

* The brassy, free-spirited Musetta and her compadres, the poet Rudolpho and the consumptive Mimi — better known to theatre audiences in their more modern Rent guises as Maureen, Roger and Mimi — will sing and dance on the Great White Way in Puccini's opera beginning with previews Nov. 21. Audiences will read their story in surtitles.

Baz Luhrmann, whose "Moulin Rouge" won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) Jan. 20, and whose direction also picked up a Directors Guild of America nomination for the flick, recreates his brash Boheme staging, first seen Down Under a decade ago. The audacious new version is set in the 1950s.

Producers are Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Emanuel Azenberg, and Bazmark Live. This is Luhrmann's first theatrical venture in the U.S.

Rent producers Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller are bringing the opera to Broadway, along with Emanuel Azenberg (The Dinner Party, Stones in His Pockets, 45 Seconds From Broadway) and Luhrmann's company. Rent used La Boheme, one of the world's most revived operas, as source material. The original story (and the Rent rock opera) involves a young woman who approaches her artistic upstairs neighbor to light her candle, after which they fall deeply and tragically in love. The opera's Mimi is a seamstress (as opposed to Rent's exotic dancer Mimi), and Rudolpho's bohemian companions are a painter, a musician and a philosopher.

Luhrmann's goal is to cast young people rather than older opera divas. "We hope to tell this story in a way that will appeal not only to the people who love Puccini's music, but to the younger audiences who may never have seen an opera before," Luhrmann said in a statement.

Luhrmann's production of Puccini' La Boheme premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 1990, becoming the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House. The new Broadway production of La Boheme will be sung in the original Italian with English surtitles.

In 1986, Luhrmann created on stage the original version of what would become his feature film debut, "Strictly Ballroom" (1992). He also directed a post-modern film adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" in 1996, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

The opera's music director and principal conductor will be Constantine Kitsopoulos. Designers are Luhrmann's creative partner, Catherine Martin (set), Martin and Angus Strathie (costumes) and Nigel Levings (lighting).

Casting is ongoing. An on-sale date for tickets will be announced.

Luhrmann's La Boheme was later revived, videotaped and televised.

The Luhrmann TV presentation of La Boheme was seen by Azenberg about six years ago, and he told Seller about it back then, as Rent was preparing for Off-Broadway. Seller said Azenberg was moved by the youth of the Luhrmann production — it was cast not for jowly opera divas but sexy young singers, who sang the Puccini in Italian. Seller said he remembers thinking five years ago that it would be great to mount La Boheme on Broadway and Rent Off-Broadway at the same time. Now, it seems a sure thing that the long-running Rent (which turns six April 29) and La Boheme will be uptown neighbors in 2002.

—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones