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By Louis Peitzman | March 5, 2020
If you saw Moulin Rouge! The Musical when it had its out-of-town premiere at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre, you experienced a different version of “Chandelier” than what’s in the Broadway production. The Sia song has always been part of a sequence involving Christian, the Bohemians, and a whole lot of absinthe, but the Broadway version puts Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler front and center. As Music Supervisor and Co-Orchestrator Justin Levine explains it, that change happened after seeing the audience’s reaction to the scene in Boston. “Sometimes you have to get something in front of an audience to really understand how far along they are with you on the ride,” he says. Part of the ride in Moulin Rouge! The Musical is hearing new versions of songs you already know and love, and seeing them performed by actors you might not expect. In this case, that means having multiple Tony Award®-nominee Danny Burstein doing “Chandelier,” as Zidler attempts to rouse Christian from his funk and get him back on track to saving the Moulin Rouge. “One of the exciting things about doing something like Moulin Rouge! is that you have the opportunity to present something very familiar in an unfamiliar way,” Levine says. “The idea of [Burstein] singing this Sia song, and singing it in a way that Danny can own the song, was really exciting to me, and every time I come back and see the show, it’s clear to me at least that it’s exciting to the audience as well, because it’s the last thing that you’re expecting to come out of his mouth.” “Chandelier” is an ideal fit for the moment. Levine notes that it’s “both a song about throwing caution to the wind, but it is also this rousing number that just gets in your head.” The beat is intense, which is fitting — the Green Fairy, after all, is a powerful force to be reckoned with. And there’s a real darkness to the song, a dramatic undercurrent that matches Christian’s despair after being rejected by Satine, and his very real desire to let go. “At this point in the story,” Levine says, “it seems like all hope is lost.” Fans of Moulin Rouge! The Musical might know better, but that doesn’t make Christian’s pain any less resonant. Thankfully, “Chandelier” offers a moment of respite: It’s a refreshing escape with far fewer side effects than absinthe.