I can safely say that many of us music nerds have been waiting too long to see red Mill like a Broadway production, and luckily the staging doesn’t disappoint.
Currently performing at the Buell Theater with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts on their national tour, red Mill is immediately an experience from the second you enter the room. With a bit of pre-show action on stage, the show immediately starts working and a 10 and stays there the entire time.
Similarly to the film, we meet Christian (Conor Ryan), a writer introduced to a cortisane named Satine (Courtney Reed) working at the famous club, where she is known as Sparkling Diamond. She mistakes him for the Duke of Monroth (David Harris) who has been set up by owner Harold Zidler (Kent Overshown) to rescue his club from financial ruin. Of course, Satine falls in love with Christian, and their love must exist in the shadows while they simultaneously perform a parallel-action production of their own story.
In the original film, many songs are covers or mixes of familiar love songs. It’s almost like the movie is watching Joy and I thought “YES, THAT!” while being suitable for the stage. It’s a little more campy but stays true to the film’s musical ideals. The iconic “Elephant Love Medley”, for example, isn’t quite as you remember it, it seems infused with around 50 more songs. And Satine doesn’t sign “One Day I’ll Fly Away”… it’s rather “Firework” by Katie Perry (without the plastic bag moment, which I would have liked to see happen.)
John Logan’s book is probably the weakest point of the series, at least on the other hand. There’s a lot more energy given to the bohemian artist lifestyle, and the smaller figures are much more fleshed out emotionally. But it feels like they just give you a bit of dialogue before diving back into the visual spectacles.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a musical that paid so much attention to featuring a ton of bright color in its lighting (design by Justin Townsend). Likewise, the set design (by Derek McClane) beautifully provides the shows with layers of detail of scenic moments that keep your eyes peeled.
I expected to leave some hate, but red Mill (as it’s done cinematically over the past two decades) sucked me in right away. Although I don’t necessarily need a Broadway show to feel big and loud, red Mill gave me all that and more.