With over a dozen musicals in his kitty, Michael Muthu talks about his adaptation of Hollywood’s Moulin Rouge
Actor-director Michael Muthu has, with a career spanning more than 20 years, become one of the most prominent faces of the city’s theatre scene. To put it in his words, “It’s been a journey with its fair share of ups and downs, but it’s been fun.” The next big thing for Muthu is an adaptation of Moulin Rouge, aptly titled The Dark Tale from the Moulin Rouge.
Speaking about directing the piece, a first for him, Muthu says, “We aren’t doing any new takes. All we’re doing is adapting Baz Luhrmann’s movie for the stage.” In keeping with the grandness of the source material, the play’s cast runs into the high numbers, with around 30 actors in all. “Our actors have all been part of the stage for a while. We have Gokul Anand playing Christian and Aishvarrya Suresh playing Satine,” says the founder of theatre group, Boardwalkers.
Song and dance
Behind the scenes, his usual collaborator (and wife) Aarti is busy at work designing the costumes. “We are sticking to the era, so all the costumes are of the period—like can-can dresses,” he explains. The set, too, will be extravagant. “It’s a split-level one with 14 locations, which will be spotlighted with lights depending on the action,” he shares, adding that the choreography will be done by Anusha Swamy and “will feature a lot of tango and can-can dancing—all the things that make Moulin Rouge what it is.”
With the story’s stand-out music and the director’s well-known love of musicals, expectations will be high from the live band that will be doing the music. “It’s being led by composer Donan Murray and we’re going to be playing all the old favourites—from Your song to Just like a virgin. Since the original’s soundtrack has more instruments than we can bring together, we have sequenced the complicated portions like the winds and strings,” he adds.
Naming Driving Miss Daisy and Naseeruddin Shah’s Mahatma vs Gandhi as among his favourite pieces of theatre, he admits, “I like Miss Daisy for its simplicity. When you’re doing something like Moulin Rouge, you obviously need to think big. But if you’re bound by budget constraints, then it’s good to know how to make minimalism work.”
Staging the play was the brainchild of the Rotary Club of Madras. Says Rotarian Sudha Shivkumar, “Our club is involved in a number of charitable causes. We decided to stage a musical with Michael as a fundraiser and to appeal to a younger audience.”
February 28, at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Hall, from 7.15 pm. Buy tickets (from `400 onwards) at all outlets of Fabindia, Fruit Shop on Greams Road and at Chamiers. Details: 24311496