What goes around comes around. The idea of the singing dancing tragic-comic Bollywood musical imported by Baz Luhrmann comes a full circle back to India as an ambitious young theatre company Nicholas Productions, founded by choreographer Denver Anthony Nicholas, attempts to recreate the magic of Moulin Rouge on stage this weekend at the Chinmaya Heritage Centre (March 6, 7 p.m and March 7, 2.30 p.m. and 7 p.m.)
The last few days have been an emotional rollercoaster for the team behind the show. The producer of the show Roshni Menon died twenty days before the opening night leaving them completely shocked and shattered. Until they realised that the best tribute they could give their friend was make her dream come true.
“We had the first audition on the first weekend of November, and had a callback in the second weekend and started rehearsals by the third week. But before the rehearsals, I spoke to Shaun Roberts to get the music ready and Mike (Michael Muthu) about the set design,” recalls Denver.
Though ‘Moulin Rouge’ is his first production as a director, Denver has quite a few shows to his credit as the choreographer ‘ Grease, Little Mermaid, Romeo and Juliet, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Night at the Musical, Chicago.
“Working with different theatre companies, I picked up the nuances of how to direct and what goes into a musical production. After Chicago, I realised I had to move on from being a choreographer to director” Roshni and me were very close friends, she had been asking me to do something on my own and had told me that the day I had decided, she would jump in and help me with my production, he adds.
“Roshni was coming back to theatre after five years.” They had earlier partnered to recreate Grease on stage for Stagefright Productions, a company Roshni founded with Freddy Koikaran.
It was Michael Muthu who had suggested Moulin Rouge to Denver. “That night, I took the DVD from him and ten minutes into the movie, I had decided to do it. I messaged Roshni and told her I wanted to do it. Unlike most of the other musicals, the songs here were already popular cult classics songs from Elton John to Police to Lady Marmalade to something like Chamma Chamma and I loved what Baz Luhrmann did with the colour and the costumes but the main thing that attracted me was the music.”
Shaun Roberts and his band Midnight Groove (Meynard Grant on Drums, Balaji on Rhythm and Percussion, Timothy George and Nelson Samuel on Keyboards, Vikram Vivekanand ( guitar and Shaun himself on bass and guitar synth) will perform live with the eight-member choir and Moulin Rouge will be one of those rare shows performed entirely live.
Shireen, student of NIFT, did the costumes of the period (Moulin Rouge is set in 1899). “The spectacle of the film was captivating and challenging. Initially, it was intriguing to us but everything started falling into place. I gave the actors a lot of space and freedom to make changes to the production and they have helped me a lot.”
“I hadn’t done theatre since college,“ says Cary Edwards, former VJ, stand up comedian and actor. “Seven years ago, Roshni and me were talking about what it would be to do a play together because she had just got into theatre production. And then we kind of lost touch and then, one day I got a call out of the blue. The minute she said ‘How you doing’ and I knew why she had called. I asked her ‘Moulin Rouge’? She said ‘Yes’. ‘You want me to play Christian’? She said ‘Yeah.’ And we had a laugh.”
Cary admits that Christian is everything he is not. “The only thing Christian and me share is that we are both creative, musically inclined and we are both straight. That’s where the similarities end. During rehearsals, Roshni would often walk up and tell me: “More Christian, less rockstar,” he laughs.
Renu Anne Abraham who plays Satine, as Denver describes, is “one of the few around who can sing and dance really, really well.” Like everyone else in the cast, Renu cracked the audition.
“I had to do the most embarrassing scene for the audition,” Renu reveals. “The one with me on the floor going Yes, Yes, Yes,” she giggles.
“I am a dancer, when Chicago happened, I jumped in. I didn’t know to sing,” she adds as Denver clarifies: “She didn’t know she could sing.”
Gibran Osman plays the villainous Duke and has sprouted a moustache for the role. “I think it gives a little quirk to the character and it’s also something to keep my hands on. Ever since I watched Grease, I wanted to work with Roshni. So when she called me to audition, I did a very horrible version of ‘Please Forgive Me’ and I am so glad they had a character that didn’t have to sing much.”
Everyone had a Roshni story to narrate. “On a personal level, it affected me a lot because she is a very good friend but on the production side, her death affected us a whole lot because she was handling the finances,” says Denver. “I never knew who she was speaking to. When this happened, we had no idea of what to do and friends got together and pooled in to make the show happen.”
“This was her dream, this is what she wanted and we will just make sure she gets it now that she has the best seat in the house. She wanted us to be Spectacular, Spectacular and I hope we live up to that,” says Cary.
As they say, the show will go on. Come what may.
For tickets, go to http://nicholasproductions.blogspot.com or call 9940195883.