Karen Olivo has decided that “social justice is actually more important than being the Sparkling Diamond.” The Broadway star announced on Instagram today that she’s leaving their starring role as Satine in the stage musical adaptation of Moulin Rouge! because she is fed up with the theater industry’s complacent response to injustice, specifically citing the lack of people speaking out after The Hollywood Reporter’s cover story about producer Scott Rudin’s allegedly violent, abusive behavior to his employees. “I could easily go back to a show and make a lot of money, but I still wouldn’t be able to really control what I was putting out into the world,” Olivo said. “In this space, right now, with our industry. Everybody’s scared and nobody’s really doing the stuff that needs to be done. People aren’t speaking out.”
“The silence about Scott Rudin, unacceptable,” she said later. “That’s the easy one, y’all. That’s a monster. That should be a no-brainer.”
Olivo was nominated for a Tony Award last fall for their performance in Moulin Rouge! and previously won one in 2009 for playing Anita in West Side Story. She’s also previously starred in In the Heights and in a touring production of Hamilton. In recent years she moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where she teaches. “I don’t need to be on a stage. I need to be out here,” Olivo said in their video. “Building a better industry is more important than putting money in my pockets.” She also referenced the fact that she had told their students about leaving the show earlier today, implying that she wanted to focus on teaching and working away from Broadway. “I want a theater industry that matches my integrity. It’s not here, obviously. Let’s go make it. Let’s divest and invest in ourselves.”
“We can confirm that Karen Olivo will not return to the production when the show resumes performances on Broadway,” the Moulin Rouge! producers said in a statement. “Moulin Rouge! the Musical is forever indebted to Karen Olivo’s artistry, passion, and craft in creating the role of Satine onstage. We applaud and support Karen’s advocacy work to create a safe, diverse, and equitable theater industry for all. Karen has been an indelible influence on our show from its beginning, and words cannot properly express our gratitude. We wish Karen great success, and above all, love.”
Rudin is not involved in Moulin Rouge! — Carmen Pavlovic, an Australian relative newcomer to Broadway, is the show’s lead producer — but he is a key figure within New York’s theater world and involved in many of its highest-profile productions. Rudin is one of two producers leading New York’s NY PopsUp post-COVID reopening campaign. His recent hit shows include To Kill a Mockingbird and Hello, Dolly!. He has a production of The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman, set to open in early 2022 and potentially a production of Our Town, starring Dustin Hoffman, who has been accused of sexual assault, opening next season as well.
Olivo is one of only a few people involved in New York theater to say anything publicly about Rudin after The Hollywood Reporter’s story was published. Others include Anthony Rapp, Heidi Schreck, Patti Murin, Andrew Barth Feldman, Mauricio Martínez, and Brandon Uranowitz. Actors’ Equity Association, SAG-AFTRA, and the musicians union issued a joint statement condemning “aggressive harassing behavior” earlier this week, but did not name Rudin specifically. The Broadway League has yet to release any statement on him.