A year since its Broadway-aimed out-of-town tryout at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre, Moulin Rouge! The Musical officially opened its doors July 25 at Broadway’s Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Inspired by the 2001 Oscar-winning Baz Luhrmann film, the musical brings all of the sexiness and heartbreak of the film to the stage.
Directed by Alex Timbers, the musical stars Tony Award winner Karen Olivo as the Moulin Rouge’s sparkling diamond Satine, with Aaron Tveit as the American songwriter who falls in love with her. Both return to Broadway after nearly a decade away. And if Sonya Tayeh’s choreography doesn’t completely knock the wind out of you, the tragic love story—set to 70 classic and contemporary pop songs—will. Here, the stars and creative team reveal secrets from behind the red velvet curtain.
Watch Playbill’s full livestream from the opening night red carpet at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom below.
Baz Lurhmann specifically chose Alex Timbers to direct the musical adaptation for Broadway.
“I had seen Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and I had seen Here Lies Love and we were at a dinner party together,” Luhrmann says. So he asked Timbers if he’d be interested. “I just love how Alex and this really young and vital team have taken the notion of the film and completely reinvented it, re-engineered it, made it vital for this time and place. They’ve made it more grounded, more psychological. The reinvention of the music is exciting.”
Danny Burstein’s Harold Zidler is inspired by two acting greats.
“I always try [to building a character] from scratch,” says Burstein. “I have to give a little credit to my dear friend Joel Grey because I did steal a little of the Emcee kind of thing from him and a little from my old mentor Tony Randall, who I worked with on my first Broadway show; and he had this wonderful dialogue with the audience and I said, ‘How do you do that? How are you so good at that?’ And he said, ‘You must love your audience.’ And I keep that in the back of my head all the time.”
Aaron Tveit is a fangirl.
“I’ve been such a fan of [choreographer] Sonya Tayeh for so long—since So You Think You Can Dance.Even in my audition I think I said, “Oh my God I love you so much!”
Tveit has been “dying to get back on Broadway,” he says. And he’s having a blast.
“Any time I’m with Ricky and Sahr [is fun]. My bohemians. They’re the most delicious two idiots I’ve ever gotten to play with.”
And Ricky Rojas reveals that they do play around a bit.
“We do have little things that we do to get us through the show,” he admits. “We have little themes that we do that we try to work into the show that only we would know and no one else would.”
Tam Mutu’s Duke didn’t always enter to “So Fresh and So Clean.”
“There have been a lot of incarnations of things, as well,” says Mutu. “The fact that we ended up with [‘So Fresh and So Clean’] is probably the best anyway. … We had some Kanye in there before.”
Book writer John Logan speaks through the character of Toulouse-Lautrec.
“[The line ] ‘I am an artist you should quake at that’ is John’s statement,” says Sahr Ngaujah, who plays Toulouse. “That is him speaking truth to power and he’s doing that through Toulouse’s mouth.”
Toulouse is also deeply rooted in the historical figure, an artist himself. And Ngaujah connects him to his Tony-nominated role of Fela Kuti.
“If you also think of Toulouse-Lautrec the person, this is an aristocrat. His family is Toulouse, France. He would have been the Count du Toulouse, but because his body did not work in the way that they would expect a count to work, his father stripped him of that title and because he wanted to consort with the commoners that also put him at odds with quite a few members of his family—to say the least,” Ngaujah explains. “One of the interesting things: Al Hirschfeld Theatre is the same theatre where we remounted Fela! … to now come back with another character that is an artist who lived but who also used their work to expand the minds of a generation, but also in the context of this play to speak truth to power, is quite interesting.”
Robyn Hurder is working harder than she’s ever worked.
Though she recently played Cassie in A Chorus Line, the 37-year-old mom (and proud of it) and Broadway star confesses, “This is the hardest stuff I’ve been doing ever. ‘Roxanne’ is like I’m being thrown into a car accident.” In the best way possible.
Karen Olivo has learned some lessons in her nearly ten-year Broadway hiatus.
“Truth is the big thing, but listening is the bigger,” she says. “I feel like we forget sometimes in things that are this fast paced. Taking your time and listening and breathing is the key to everything.”
Olivo had no problem treating pop songs like musical theatre songs she had to interpret from scratch.
“I didn’t know most of the pop songs. That’s the truth,” she says. “I’m someone who still listens to Depeche Mode. So it actually became pretty easy in those terms.”