As the play begins, the young Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is already in rebellion against the constraints of his noble breeding and background, and determined to become an artist. Heading for Paris, he takes up residence in a bordello (much to the dismay of his family and friends) and attends art school where his radical ideas quickly bring him into conflict with his conservative teachers. But Henri's natural milieu is more the bistros and fleshpots of Montmartre than the staid ateliers of the Academy, and as his life becomes more drunken and dissolute his art flourishes producing the great posters and paintings which have come to symbolize the Paris of the "belle epoque." Punctuating the action of the play are authentic songs of the period, written by Aristide Bruant and others (with updated English lyrics) and sung (with piano and accordion accompaniment) by such famed entertainers of the time as Jane Avril, Yvette Guilbert, and La Goulue. But amid the swirl of gaiety and good times it is soon evident that the health of the naturally frail Toulouse-Lautrec is beginning to weaken. In and out of sanitoriums, and resisting the pleas of his family to come home and of his friends to stop drinking, Henri plunges doggedly ahead on his destructive course, pursuing a destiny which leads both to an early death and to immortality and a secure place both in the history of art and in the hearts of all who dream of the glittering Paris of the can-can and the Moulin Rouge.
True to its title this colorful, lively play traces the eventful, ultimately tragic life of Toulouse-Lautrec, and also captures, with brilliant theatricality, the excitement and verve of the Paris of his day. Successfully produced in New York City.