Reflecting on the recent one-year anniversary of BAZ – Star Crossed Love at The Palazzo, it dawned on me – one reason in particular, that makes the films of Baz Luhrmann so suited for the stage, is the deliberate care with which Luhrmann pairs contemporary music with stories that have stood the test of time.  Where Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, in 1925; and Romeo and Juliet was adapted by Shakespeare, from stories going back to the 16th Century; and Moulin Rouge!‘s plot was based on Camille, La Traviata, and the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice; the scores of these films contains (mostly) contemporary music, familiar to the ears of the M-TV Generation.

To wit, the songs performed in BAZ – Star Crossed Love are firmly entrenched in today’s aural lexicon and are part of the soundtrack of our lives, as well as this show and these films.  From Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), there’s “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” (Doris Day); and there’s “Up the Ladder to the Roof” (The Supremes) from Luhrmann’s recent Netflix series, The Get Down (2016).  The rest of the songs in BAZ are split between Luhrmann’s three films about star-crossed lovers. 

From William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) is a gospel version of “When Doves Cry” (Prince) – another of Luhrmann’s signature moves is unexpected arrangements of songs; as well as “Young Hearts Run Free” (Candi Stanton), “Children of the Revolution” (T.Rex), “Everybody’s Free” (Rozalla), and “#1 Crush” (Garbage).

From Moulin Rouge! (2001) we get “Nature Boy” (Nat King Cole), “Like a Virgin” (Madonna), “The Show Must Go On” (Queen), “Hindi Sad Diamonds” (originally from the 1998 Bollywood film, China Gate), and a fantastically sensualized tango-version of “Roxanne” (The Police); as well as a pair of Luhrmann’s beloved mash-ups – “Sparkling Diamonds” (featuring “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from the Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Madonna’s “Material Girl”), and another combining “Lady Marmalade (LaBelle) with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana).

And from The Great Gatsby (2013) our ears are treated to such audio gold as an absolutely delicious mash-up of “Back to Black” (Amy Winehouse), “Love is the Drug” (Roxy Music), and “Sing!, Sing! Sing!” (Benny Goodman); as well as “Love is Blindness” (U2), and some wonderful original songs recorded for the film, such as “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” (Fergie feat. Q-Tip and GoonRock), “Together” (The xx), “Over the Love” (Florence + the Machine), and the heart-wrenching “Young and Beautiful” (Lana Del Rey).

Now, don’t get me wrong – having a score made-up of the songs I’ve discussed, above, is fantastic, to be sure; but if those songs aren’t performed by actors with strong voices, it wouldn’t amount to the proverbial hill of beans!  Fortunately, the three couples at the center of BAZ (Juliet and her Romeo, Satine and Christian, and Daisy and Gatsby) are portrayed by actors at the top of their respective games.

What is most surprising to me (and a testament to the vocal chops witnessed in BAZ) is that, on paper, this should be the most maudlin production ever to hit the Strip.  Look again at those three couples!  Of the six of them, four are dead by the end of the show.  Romeo and Juliet commit suicide by poisoning, Satine perishes from consumption (aka tuberculosis), and Gatsby is shot by a misinformed cuckold, and bleeds-out in his pool.  Meanwhile, Daisy returns to her cheating husband, Tom; and one supposes that Christian becomes an addict of some sort (a little absinthe did actually kill quite a few somebodies).

And yet, the feeling you have at the end of BAZ is indubitably one of exhilaration.  Certainly this is due to the fact that the music has steered us to a feeling of joy.  Also, there’s a big confetti drop (and it’s hard to be glum, with confetti falling around you).  Regardless, it’s a load of fun, and has that rare quality that I’ve dubbed “Go-Back-ability” – wherein, as a Vegas local, you don’t mind seeing it a second or third (or even fourth) time, when you’ve got people in town.  A necessity for the success of any Las Vegas show, BAZ – Star Crossed Love’s got it in spades!

BAZ – Star Crossed Love
Palazzo Theatre | The Palazzo
Click HERE for tickets and info

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