Darren Middleton, musician, Spectacular, Spectacular

There’s a big band and the stage will be dressed to set the mood with the aim to transport you to another time and place ...

Most of us can remember the first time they took in the glitz, glamour and grandiose scope of Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece musical Moulin Rouge. Not only did the film prove to be a massive career milestone for the director and the film’s lead performers Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, it also kickstarted a fascination with mash-up musicality courtesy of its stellar soundtrack. Few of us can forget the film’s iconic original compositions and covers, such as ‘Lady Marmalade’, ‘Rhythm of the Night’ and ‘Come What May’ – tracks that helped elevate the film into the stratosphere of success. On Friday December 10, The Fortitude Musical Hall will stage Spectacular, Spectacular – a reimagining of Moulin Rouge’s soundtrack as a live-music show commemorating the film’s 20th anniversary. A host of local musicians will be taking the stage to bring the songs to life, including Powderfinger guitarist Darren Middleton. We chatted with Darren about his love of theatre and attempt to glean some hints as to what he’s bringing to the show.

It’s been just over 20 years since Moulin Rouge was released in theatres – can you remember your first impressions of the film when you viewed it?
I remember being pretty impressed back then, which grew to thoroughly impressed as I worked in music and film over the years. Baz and his team did an incredible job of meshing music and theatre together – plus you have Nicole and Ewan together, both playing their roles beautifully.

We’re extremely excited to see you take the stage for Moulin Rouge-inspired showcase Spectacular, Spectacular at The Fortitude Music Hall next month, accompanied by a 15-piece band, horn and string ensemble. What was it about the concept of the show that made you want to sign on to participate?
I’ve harboured a secret love for theatre and show performance for many years! I love a dress up, a sing and when some acting/dialogue is on the cards it becomes a pretty quick ‘yes’ from me. Plus, it’s being done properly – there’s a big band and the stage will be dressed to set the mood with the aim to transport you to another time and place. I’m really excited!

We’ve heard there will be a few collaborations throughout the evening – can you give us any insight into how the show will take shape?
It is shaped around Baz Luhrmann’s film and, as such, it waltzes through quite a few collaborations and musical moments between all the crew. There are some surprises and perhaps some unexpected roles being played – to which I can’t give too much away, sorry! You’ll just have to get along to see for yourself!

Aside from the costumes and the performances, one of the most critically praised aspects of the film was its soundtrack – formed almost entirely of covers. Do you have a personal highlight track from the movie (and can we expect your own rendition as part of Spectacular, Spectacular)?
There are lots of very cool moments in the soundtrack. Meshing songs can be a tricky thing to do tastefully, but they achieved it in this film. For me, ‘Elephant Love Medley’ is a pretty fun moment.

What do you think is the most important thing a musician should consider when choosing to cover a beloved song?
Know what you love about it. It can be as simple as the melody or rhythm or perhaps the lyric/story and how it relates to your life – the key is to know how it makes you feel, then, play it like you wrote it. It’s then about paying respect to the original song but also about interpreting it through who you are because you’re an artist.

What classic Aus-rock tune would you most love to see get a big-screen musical interpretation?
The first one that pops to mind is ‘Asleep In Perfection’ by one of my favourite bands, Augie March.

We’re approaching the end of the year, which is crazy to admit. How has your 2021 been? Were there any noteworthy creative or personal highlights?
It’s been a pretty quiet year with many stops and starts – shows booked, shows cancelled, motivation found, motivation lost. I dare say it’s no different to any of us working in this industry. It’s been challenging and very much so for many people I know who work behind the scenes. One good thing, on a personal level, is my family moved north closer to our families.

We’re slowly getting Australia’s live-music scene back on track after a few years of pandemic-induced hibernation. What do you hope 2022 holds for the music industry at large?
I hope to see shows, festivals and tours stick. I know there is a great hunger to see and support our writers and performers, and I sincerely hope everyone gets at least some windows of opportunity to play again. There are many, many crew and staff off the stage who need this as well.

Spectacular, Spectacular will be reimagining Moulin Rouge’s soundtrack as a live-music show on Friday December 10 at The Fortitude Music Hall, featuring performances from Darren Middleton, Sarah Mcleod, Sahara Beck, Hope D, Patience Hodgson, Tia Gostelow, Tim Nelson and more. You can get some last-minute tickets here


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