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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



THEATER Out producer Bill Damaschke debuts 'Moulin Rouge' in Chicago
by Jerry Nunn

This article shared 1431 times since Tue Mar 22, 2022
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical is kicking off its North American tour in the Windy City, with an eight-week run at the James M. Nederlander Theatre.

This 10-time Tony Award winner plans to immerse Chicago audiences into a world of music and spectacle. Based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film, Moulin Rouge is the story of Christian, a talented composer, who falls in love with a cabaret actress named Satine. Expect familiar tunes and plenty of hijinks to happen in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France.

Out producer Bill Damaschke brings a background of live theatrical musicals to the table after overseeing Shrek the Musical and The Prom in the past. He spent over 20 years at DreamWorks Animation as a chief creative officer so has a keen eye for entertainment that matches well with this jaw-dropping visual feast that will surely leave a lasting impression with ticket holders.

Damaschke spoke exclusively with Windy City Times at a press conference during the development of the show.

Windy City Times: Where did you grow up?

Bill Damascke: I was born at 59th and Pulaski, then my family moved to Summit, which is near Justice, Illinois, in the suburbs when I was in seventh grade. I went to Argo Community High School. I went to Illinois Wesleyan University for college.

WCT: You moved to New York to pursue acting?

BD: Yes, I moved to New York as an actor, but I always wanted to be a producer or a director.

I then moved to LA and got a job working at Disney as a producer. DreamWorks was a new thing at the time and I got a job there working in the animation division. I worked my way up in the team until I was the chief creative officer. We made some great movies there like Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon. That led me to Shrek the Musical, [which] I produced on Broadway and on tour.

I left DreamWorks after 20 years and then moved back to New York in 2015 to focus on theater. I worked on The Prom, which is also coming here soon. The Prom and Moulin Rouge are two projects that I have spent a lot of time on in these last six years.

WCT: You can't run from a musical because, apparently, they will track you down.

BD: They will always find me! [laughs]

WCT: What are your duties as an executive producer?

BD: Well, I have a producing partner named Carmen Pavlovic, who is from Australia. I was initially in New York as was the director Alex Timbers. We have been producing Moulin Rouge for a very long time and I brought the team together.

Sonya Tayeh is doing the choreography, John Logan the book and Justin Levine is working on the orchestrations. I develop the material and have workshops with all of these people. I bring on the design team as well as the creative team.

WCT: Is there content in Moulin Rouge! The Musical for LGBTQ audiences?

BD: The whole idea of Moulin Rouge is that everyone is welcome. It is important to us in how we conduct ourselves onstage and backstage. There is no plot specifically about that, but audiences will see Harold Zidler have an affair with another character that is male-identifying.

The four Lady Ms open the club at the start of the show and one of them is a man dressed as a woman. There is a gender question about that later.

That is what these clubs were like in Paris. It was where the rich people and the bohemians went and would mingle. There were performers that were not just diverse with gender, but also racially diverse. It is represented on our current stage, just like it was back then.

WCT: How are the songs different than the movie soundtrack?

BD: It was Baz Luhrmann's film and he gave us incredible permission to do what we wanted to do. His advice was to make it our own and not just put another movie onstage. It wouldn't be successful because the tools of the theater are very different than movies.

When he made the movie 20 years ago it was the music of the moment. He wanted the musical version to have the feel of today. The idea of the film is that Christian wrote all of the greatest love songs of all time, within that canon you can go from Cab Calloway to Katy Perry and Beyonce. There is a huge range there.

I think the audience will get all of the stuff that they love from the movie and much more that is new to the show.

WCT: Is the "Because We Can" number spectacular?

BD: Yes, it is amazing and part of the opening of the show. It is really thrilling!

WCT: What are your thoughts on straight man James Corden playing the gay role in The Prom?

BD: I grew up in a time, as a gay actor, when I fought and wanted to be known for roles that were straight roles. I may have an old-fashioned view of it, but I find it challenging to be in a world where gay people can only play gay roles. I understand that only a few gay roles come along though.

I think people missed the point of The Prom where we had two out lesbians playing the main characters. It is a story about two girls that have a positive relationship in the end. It has never been done before and yet people were disappointed that we didn't have a gay man playing that role.

It is a very complicated question, but I was happy we had two out actresses playing those roles with that ending. That is what is lasting about that movie.

WCT: What are you working on next?

BD: I am developing a movie with Netflix animation and a few theater projects. Moulin Rouge is really keeping me busy these days!

Moulin Rouge! The Musical hits the high notes March 19 through May 14 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Buy tickets while you "can, can, can" at .

This article shared 1431 times since Tue Mar 22, 2022
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