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Broadway’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ Replaces Star Who Resigned To Protest Industry Abuse

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 2, 2021

Diamonds are forever, but stars can be swapped.

Months after Karen Olivo resigned from the Broadway company of Moulin Rouge, producers Carmen Pavlovic and Bill Damaschke have announced their replacement: Australian actor Natalie Mendoza.

“We’re excited to welcome Natalie to our company. She’s an extraordinary artist and I’m so thrilled to be working with her again,” said director Alex Timbers, who had previously directed Mendoza in the West End production of Here Lies Love.

Mendoza, who returns to Broadway after a decade away, will assume the musical’s lead role of Satine when the show resumes performances on September 24. Her predecessor announced she was leaving the company in April, before it had set a return date. Pre-pandemic, Moulin Rouge was a commercial hit, regularly grossing over $2 million a week.

Olivo’s resignation was not in response to dissatisfaction with the Moulin Rouge! company specifically. Instead, they framed it as a protest against broader inequity in the industry, and the silence of powerbrokers in the wake of alleged abuse by disgraced producer Scott Rudin. (Rudin is not affiliated with Moulin Rouge.)

“The silence about Scott Rudin: unacceptable,” she said in a statement. “That’s a monster. That should be a no-brainer.”

Olivo was in a rarified position: the star of a major hit musical, already with one Tony award to their name, who had the power and financial flexibility to make a statement by quitting entirely. And she leveraged it to effect, calling out theater owners who had been supplying Rudin with first-dibs access for years, despite a financial track record no better than industry average, and decades of open-secret stories of staff abuse.

“I don’t need to be on a stage,” Olivo said at the time. “Building a better industry is more important than putting money in my pockets. I want a theater industry that matches my integrity.”

Rudin has since said he would be “stepping back” from all active producing, including Broadway, film and TV ventures. A lawyer familiar with the issue, but not working directly with the parties, confirmed that Rudin’s team is legally “transitioning” his projects. However, it’s possible he will remain a silent partner on many, and thus be entitled to remuneration. At least one show, The Book of Mormon, has publicly said Rudin will be completely cut out of the profit stream moving forward.

As for Moulin Rouge, it is poised to resume its place on the Rialto as a commercial hit, assuming buyers feel comfortable returning to the theatre. Hopefully they will: every Broadway house is requiring proof of vaccination and masks for all audiences, upgrading their ventilation systems, and mandating vaccines and testing for employees.

September comes on apace.


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