Live Design: Did the Baz Luhrmann film influence your research or scenic design?
Derek McLane: All of us working on the stage show were very influenced by the movie. The story, the style, the look all found their inspiration there. My job as designer was to capture its energy, as well as tell the story that John Logan wrote in his script. I’ve tried to pay homage to a few favorite visuals from the movie, and at the same time, make this production feel surprising and new.
LD: How much has changed since Boston for the Broadway version?
DM: I developed some ideas further and added more detail. We did significantly more work to the front of house than we did in Boston, adding far more architectural details.
LD: What are the major set pieces, and how do they set the stage to tell the story?
DM: The most important set pieces are the club itself, with its heart-shape portals; Satine’s apartment (referred to in the story sometimes as ‘the elephant’); Lautrec’s garret; the Duke’s apartment; backstage at the Moulin Rouge; and the streets of Montmartre. There are others of course, but those are the major sets.
LD: What is the color palette for the scenery, and how did you collaborate with LD Justin Townsend in terms of lighting your sets?
DM: There are two major color palettes in the set—the various reds (and there are many reds) and golds of the club (including Satine’s apartment), and the greys of Montmartre. They are deliberately in stark contrast to one another.
Justin and I worked together closely. I wanted to incorporate as much lighting as we could in this set—mostly incandescent light bulbs and neon—to get the set to change looks and pulsate as rapidly as the music does.
LD: No video?
DM: No video. I felt strongly from the outset that the style of this show should not include video.
LD: How many various locations did you create, and how do they flow from one to the next? What is the storage situation offstage in a Broadway theatre where real estate is always tight?
DM: Depending on how you count them, there about 13 or 14 locations in the story. Storage is, of course, very tight and required in-depth planning and engineering in order to fit what we have.
LD: What were your biggest challenges for this production?
DM: The biggest challenge for me was to capture the spirit and energy of the movie, meet the expectations of the many people who love it, and to tell its story onstage in a way that felt surprising and moving.