How “Moulin Rouge: The Musical” Has Given Me an Existential Crisis

Picture this: it’s 2018 and the musical adaptation of Moulin Rouge is opening in Boston. As a lover of the film and a musical theatre dork this was a dream come true – not that I would see it in Boston of course.

I followed the show’s progress constantly, its Broadway transfer in 2019 was when I knew “oh my gosh – I can go and see this show!!!” And yet, despite making shows a priority when we would be back in New York for Comic-Con, I still didn’t see it.

Then the pandemic happens, Broadway goes dark, they come back, now you’re up to speed.

I (like most) had been in love with Aaron Tveit probably since middle school and knew my life simply could not be complete until I witnessed him as Christian. Social media is a beautiful thing; the livestreams Aaron and Ricky (Rojas) held made me feel connected to the theatre world when I had been out of it for a few years by then.

But here’s the thing, those social media moments, and the bts shared by the entire cast and crew hit me really hard. I was hit unexpectedly hard in February 2022 when Robyn Hurder was scheduled to depart.

Robyn originated the role of Nini for the production, a character who I mostly associated with spilling Christian and Satine’s secret. Musical Nini is so much more. I was seeing this phenomenal creative and talented woman document her journey in this show along with motherhood and everyday life and I have been endlessly amazed by her. It wasn’t until she was set to depart that I went “fu*k, I’m never going to see this woman who has inspired me perform in this role that has come to mean so much to me.” I knew I would kick myself for not making a trip before Aaron, Ricky, Tamu also took their final bows. But I couldn’t get over wondering why Robyn’s departure was one I felt so viscerally.

The story after her departure only further broke my heart, a story for her to tell, not me. But when I think about why I regret not getting to see her I think about dancing. I used to dance, and every so often I see a musical number or dance performance and I miss it so much it hurts. Seeing someone perform with such precision and love and talent is like a drug, it is infectious. I’ve cried watching Robyn perform because I am pained by the question “what if?” What if I stuck it out?

Up until my senior year of high school I thought I wanted to go into musical theatre. But then I got scared that I wouldn’t be able to commit to one thing and didn’t want to worry that I made a mistake, so I didn’t. I’ve enjoyed my higher education experience, but as that journey creeps towards the finish line I think I am more lost than ever.

That “what if” comes and goes, but at the end of the day I think it means I am not done with theatre. Sometimes all I can think about is designing and creating costumes for revivals of xyz show. All I want to do is bedazzle that sparkling diamond bodysuit or fluff boas. I don’t know if I will ever be back on stage. I don’t know how it might fit into my life but it’s not over.

I certainly could not have predicted that a stage of sparkling lingerie and red velvet gloves would make me question the trajectory of my future but here we are.

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