Through Feb. 3 — A tragic and taboo romance between a beautiful courtesan, Satine, and a poor poet, Christian, plays out on the stage and in the silks of Ashland's Le Cirque Centre.

A tragic and taboo romance between a beautiful courtesan, Satine, and a poor poet, Christian, plays out on the stage and in the silks of Le Cirque Centre.

The circus arts academy borrows Australian screenwriter Baz Luhrmann's script and score for its own multidimensional production of "The 'Moulin Rouge' Circus Show."

The show features all the passion, color, glamour, artistry, power plays, declarations of love and jealous antics that distinguished the 2001 Academy Award-winning musical film, but physical acting, dance and acrobatics displace dialogue.

More than 20 company dancers will act out the show on and above the stage, using aerial fabrics, a trapeze, a chandelier, silks, straps and various other pieces of aerial rigging.

Performances will be at 3 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 20, 27 and Feb. 3, and at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 18-19, 25-26 and Feb. 1-2, at the recently renovated center, 280 E. Hersey St., No. 12, Ashland.

The Moulin Rouge, a Parisian "underworld" bordello and "kingdom of nighttime pleasures," is the setting for the drama to unfold. The year is 1899, and Christian (Krysna Dev) arrives in Paris, embraces the Bohemian values of truth, beauty, freedom and love and, inspired by the charismatic performer Talouse (John Fiore), writes a play, "Spectacular, Spectacular." He pitches this play to Harold Zidler, owner of the Moulin Rouge, and later to the club's star performer and "sparkling diamond," Satine (Glory Pillsbury).

A passionate love affair develops between Christian and Satine, who, unfortunately, has been promised to a wealthy patron, The Duke (Hani Hajje), who has offered to invest in the club in exchange for exclusive "access" to the beautiful starlet.

"It's really about love," says director and choreographer Lorenzo SantaBarbara. "It's about a starving poet artist who falls in love and helps Satine, who has been owned all her life by Zidler and now The Duke, to discover an emotion."

"My favorite scene is right before intermission. On aerial straps, each dancer has their hand in a loop, and they fly in circles. It ends with the two (Satine and Christian) embracing each other as they go up and up and up to the ceiling."

But, alas, the story is a tragedy. The couple's love is impeded by The Duke's jealous threats, and Satine succumbs to tuberculosis.

"The emotional pivotal point in this production is 'El Tango de Roxanne,' which exemplifies the depth of jealousy, rage and obsession of The Duke," SantaBarbara says.

"It's one of the most intense scenes I've done in my life."

The show is not recommended for children. It has risque costumes and a couple of suggestive numbers, including a pole dance, but "I would not call it distasteful burlesque," SantaBarbara says.

Tickets cost $15 and are available at Le Cirque and Music Coop in Ashland. Call 541-301-6804.