For the stage production, music supervisor, arranger, and orchestrator Justin Levine expanded its sonic landscape, using more than 70 pop songs (credited to 161 writers) in the construction of the score, which includes Karen Olivo singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” and Aaron Tveit singing “Roxanne,” by the Police.
The album has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and, with no composers on the show, original cast members Danny Burstein, Tam Mutu, Sahr Ngaujah, Olivo, and Tveit all received nominations, as well producers Levine, Luhrmann, Matt Stine, and Alex Timbers. (Luhrmann was also nominated back in 2001 for Best Compilation Soundtrack album for the movie version.) Here, we have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the recording sessions for the album, featuring the stars of the show singing a few of the hits, such as “Lady Marmalade,” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
The way the album is stitched together from pre-existing pop songs is complex and can feel mind-boggling. For example, in one love-themed number, the cast sings bits and pieces of songs, including “All You Need Is Love,” “I Was Made for Loving You,” “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and “I Will Always Love You.”
“It is both a challenge and advantage to use pop music to create a score,” Levine — who is credited with the arrangements — tells Rolling Stone. “The advantage is that you are already building on a visceral foundation these songs carry with anyone who already knows them. The challenge is finding ways to make the songs feel essential to the voices of these characters. They can’t simply be a gimmick, they must move the show forward. That’s where our brilliant company comes in: They have to own these songs that are often iconic and essential on their own.”
Along with Moulin Rouge! The Musical album — which was recently released on vinyl and is also available on CD and digitally — three other Broadway musicals (including another with an exclamation point in its title) and one Broadway play — are also in the running in the Grammy category of Best Musical Theater Album: Ain’t Too Proud —The Life and Times of The Temptations, Hadestown, Oklahoma!, and Imogen Heap’s musical suites featured on The Music of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
But that’s not the only Broadway-related news at the Grammys: Ariana Grande managed to make Rodgers & Hammerstein cool again after releasing a new song based around the melody of “My Favorite Things,” the classic composition from the 1959 Golden Age musical The Sound of Music. “7 Rings” is nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance.
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26th, with Alicia Keys returning as its host. Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X lead the Grammy nominees this year, with the breakout stars all nominated for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist.