Baz: Star Crossed Love
At a Glance
What is it?
A musical cabaret mashup of stories, music, and dialogue from the films of director Baz Luhrmann including Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, Simply Ballroom, and Romeo + Juliet.
Where is it?
At The Palazzo on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
Absolutely – this is one of the most exciting shows in Las Vegas.
Why should I see this show?
Because you want to be thrilled by great singing and an immersive theatrical experience.
What else do I need to know?
Spoiler alert: most of the films on which this show is based do not have the happiest of endings so while funny in places, this is not a light musical comedy.
What’s the bottom line?
Entertaining, inventive, and powerful – the most original show in Las Vegas.
It’s rare that a Vegas show comes along that feels completely and wholly unique. Blue Man Group felt that way when they first arrived in town. The first Cirque production certainly turned the idea of what a Vegas show could be on its head. Absinthe falls into this bucket.
But in my nearly two decades of writing about Las Vegas, nothing has felt as truly original, inventive, and exciting as Baz: Star Crossed Love now playing at the Palazzo Las Vegas.
This is an offshoot of the For the Record Live series, which got its start in Los Angeles, when a group of friends began performing songs and dialogue snippets from Quentin Tarantino films at a small club. From there it blossomed into multiple shows, each of which honored the work of a director like Martin Scorsese, John Hughes, The Coen Brothers, and Robert Zemeckis.
This production, also originally staged in Los Angeles and then brought to Vegas by Cirque du Soleil originally at Light Nightclub, focuses on the films of Baz Luhrmann, specifically Moulin Rouge from 2001 starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor; Romeo + Juliet from 1996 starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes; and The Great Gatsby from 2013 also starring DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. There’s a little bit of Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom thrown in for good measure here but it’s mainly just the dancing instead of the plot.
It takes the stories and weaves them together as a mashup, connecting the thematic dots between the tragic love sagas in each – Gatsby’s fatal attraction with the married Daisy; Christian’s doomed infatuation with courtesan Satine; and, of course the children of the fueding houses of Capulet and Montague. The actors play multiple characters as they segue in and out of the high points of each story, giving even those with no knowledge of the films or the stories on which they are based enough to get them fully invested in the action.
It is the music, though, that is the star of this particular show with live versions of many of the pop and rock songs used to such great effect in the films. Just a few examples: “Lady Marmalade” mixed with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit;” Candi Station’s “Young Hearts Run Free;” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin;” “Roxanne” by The Police; Prince’s “When Doves Cry;” Elton John’s “Your Song;” and “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” by Fergie. These may sound like random songs but this is no jukebox musical – each not only fits with the mood of the story but they propel the action forward in exciting and often unexpected ways. It’s a soundtrack brought to life.
True standout moments include “Everybody’s Free,” originally a 1990s dance hit by Rozalla, but here turned into a plaintive, yearning choral ballad for Daisy as she sees the things missing in her life; Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” as a trio of sorts between Daisy, Juliet, and Satine, each lamenting the unattainable loves in their lives; and the show closing version of Florence + The Machine’s “Over the Love” is nothing short of breathtaking – if you don’t get at least a little choked up you’re not human.
The cast is uniformly excellent – singing, dancing, and acting, both comedic and dramatic, at a level deserving of a Broadway run. The couple dropping in rumba, tango, and pasodoble as nods to Strictly Ballroom are championship level dancers.
The Palazzo theater has been substantially revamped so the action flows off the stage and into the audience. In addition to theater-goer seating on the stage, walkways jut into the lounge-like space meaning that action happens in front of you, behind you, and sometimes right next you as you become a part of one of Gatsby’s parties or in the audience for a show at the Moulin Rouge. And don’t worry about missing something important – they do a good job of focusing the attention where it needs to go with lighting and other cues.
A little bit of the intimacy I experienced in the original venue at the much smaller Light nightclub has been lost here at first but by the time things get swinging you forget all about the distance between you and the main stage.
This is the most un-Vegas show currently playing in Vegas. It’s dark, challenging, esoteric, and requires you to pay attention so I remain worried about whether or not it can have a long shelf life here. The three stories told are not the type that usually works in a town like this where audiences seem to appreciate mindless entertainment and musical comedy. Spoiler alert! Romeo and Juliet’s romance doesn’t end well, so not exactly a light, happy romp. A show like this is a risk in Las Vegas.
But with great risk comes great reward and those who choose to see this risky production will be rewarded with the most original, inventive, and powerful theatrical experience in Las Vegas.