Tony Award-winning Moulin Rouge! The Musical Headed For Broadway at the Hobby

Harper Miles, Libby Lloyd, Nicci Claspell and Andres Quintero in Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
Harper Miles, Libby Lloyd, Nicci Claspell and Andres Quintero in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade

Libby Lloyd had just finished up as an understudy and swing in the original Broadway cast of Diana. She went to an audition for an understudy and swing role in Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway, not really sure she wanted another fill-in-as-needed job.

But then her agent called her with a different offer. How would she feel about going on the road as the dancer Nini?

"This is the role of a lifetime. The dancing I get to do is so much fun," Lloyd says. So she wenr to the final callback for the tour spot instead of the Broadway swing, was offered the role and promptly signed on with Broadway Across America's national tour and will be on the Hobby Center stage next week with Moulin Rouge! The Musical.

Moulin Rouge! The Musical won ten 2021 Tony Awards including best musical and is based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film with even more music — add-ons from the ensuing two decades.

The musical, which Lloyd says adheres pretty closely to the movie script, tells the story of Christian who enters the bohemian world of the Moulin Rouge cabaret club and falls in love with performer Satine. Satine has been enlisted to save the failing club and is instructed to impress a local Duke in hopes he'll provide financial support. Adding to the operatic aspects of all this, Satine has consumption.

Describing her character Nini (also known as Nini Legs-in-the-Air), Lloyd says:  "Nini is feisty. She’s honest. She’s sexy. She’s loyal. She is cutthroat. She’s no nonsense. If  things are going down, she’s in the know about what’s happening. She'll tell you like it is what even if it's something you don’t want to hear.

"I fell like she is so bold in some ways that has been empowering for me in my own life. It's fun character to play and the dancing I get to do is so much fun."

Asked for the most challenging part of that dancing, Lloyd says "The choreography feels right in my body so it doesn't feel hard. The hard part is doing it night after night. So how do I keep my body from breaking down when I'm doing these extreme movements eight times a week? But in the show when I'm doing it it definitely feels so good."

Asked about the biggest challenge in terms of individual dances in the show, Lloyd points to "Roxanne."

"'Roxanne' is one of the most epic numbers in any musical. We do this section where I'm being thrown around by these five men which is very athletic which I love. We're telling a dramatic story. Then we finish that section and then after that I do this partnering section and after that I'm a little disoriented, very winded, already a little bit tired and then we go into this partnering section with me and Santiago. The lights are right in my eyes — it took some getting used to."

Once they finish, she is dragged off the stage before the ensemble dancers go into one of their big numbers.

Each week at the top of the week, the company practices the most intense dances and a section called "matches" is part of that, she says. When the original Broadway company performed "Roxanne," the actress playing Nini had her shoes start smoking from the friction of her being pushed across the stage. "So they called it matches," Lloyd says — a name that has stuck even though Lloyd and anyone else playing the part now wears shoes with suede toe caps.

Lloyd says she grew up in a musical family. Her dad plays piano and guitar and on Sunday nights they would all sing together. She didn't start dancing till she was 10 — soccer had been her focus earlier but health complications put an end to that — and she didn't start voice lessons until she was a teenager.  She continued with the theater arts into college where she got a full ride to Brigham Young University and a degree in music/dance theater.  She was also on the university's acclaimed Cougarettes dance team. They won a national championship  (they've won 19 in all) the two years she was on the team and feels like that experience really helped her improve in dance.

Why musical theater?

"Music has a way to communicate; I always feel like it’s a universal language. It communicates deeper than words can in my opinion and so to combine that with movement of the body like dancing which is also a language — these are things that are so powerful innately. We can feel it versus like having to say the thing I think is so powerful when used  to tell stories that are so important.

"It gives the audience a chance to connect in a deeper way than they maybe even realize. I really love that ability to connect to the audience and tell them a story that they might not hear otherwise and teach them some empathy hopefully in some ways. Give people a chance to escape their lives and  put themselves in the position of someone else.

"And it's just fun.  Who doesn't love a good beat and fun music?"

Performances are scheduled for February 22 through March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. Exception: Thursday, February 23 there is a 1 p.m. showing. For more information, call 800-982-2787 or visit or $35-$90.
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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