The Tremendous Task of Reimagining 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical'

Published January 15, 2024

Imagine having to completely transform a musical production in a single day. That was the reality for Justin Levine, the creative force behind the arrangements of 'Moulin Rouge! The Musical.' What seemed like a typical day of passionate work morphed into a race against time as he witnessed twelve integral songs being stripped from the production, posing a significant challenge to reinvent half of the show's musical landscape.

The Challenge of an Arranger

Levine, wearing multiple hats as an arranger, orchestrator, and music supervisor, had taken on the massive challenge of knitting together a tapestry of pop songs spanning a century. The musical boasted an ambitious assortment of around 70 songs with contributions from a diverse group of legendary artists such as Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Beyonce, and Adele. Crafting rights agreements for each piece of music was as crucial as it was daunting, and failing to secure the rights meant losing weeks of strenuous creative effort.

More Than a Jukebox Musical

The musical did not fit the typical mold of a jukebox musical, according to Levine. Instead of selecting an artist's catalog to feature, the team faced the unique task of finding music that would advance the story. Their efforts focused on adapting classic tracks to support the narrative of Christian, the young composer, and his love affair with Satine, the star of the Parisian cabaret. Key to their success was the innovative use of pop mashups, with the 'Elephant Love Medley' standing out as a cleverly woven duet between the protagonists, combining fragments of numerous iconic songs to advance their romantic discourse.

A Laborious, Yet Rewarding Process

Levine described the meticulous process of creating the 'Elephant Love Medley,' which required days of deconstructing lyrics and piecing them back together to ensure that the storyline was coherent and engaging. The dedication continued with relentless fine-tuning of the musical hits to fit the narrative. This behind-the-scenes labor of about three years might seem insignificant, yet the complexity of blending various artists and genres into a seamless and impactful musical transitions was no small feat.

'Moulin Rouge! The Musical' has justified its development time with critical acclaim, securing 14 Tony nominations and winning 10, including Best Musical. The spectacular has soared, proving its uniqueness and innovativeness in a Broadway scene littered with more traditional jukebox musicals.

musical, arrangement, challenge