Karen Olivo Won’t Return to ‘Moulin Rouge!’

Karen Olivo, a Tony-nominated star of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” said Wednesday that she would not rejoin the show’s cast when Broadway performances resume.

She made the announcement in a five-minute Instagram video. “I could easily go back to the show and make a lot of money,” she said, “but I still wouldn’t be able to really control what I was putting out into the world, and what I’m seeing in this space, right now, with our industry, is that everybody is scared, and nobody is really doing a lot of the stuff that needs to be done.”

She referred specifically to the powerful producer Scott Rudin, who has long been described as abusive toward staffers, most recently in a detailed April 7 article in The Hollywood Reporter. Rudin is not a producer of “Moulin Rouge!,” and Olivo has not worked with him, but she has been vocal with her concerns about overall industry practices.

“The silence about Scott Rudin: unacceptable,” she said in the video. “That should be a no-brainer.”

She challenged colleagues to speak up. “Those of you who say you’re scared — what are you afraid of?” she said. “Shouldn’t you be more afraid of not saying something and more people getting hurt?”

In a phone call later Wednesday, Olivo said that the lack of a broader response to The Hollywood Reporter story “cracked me open” and contributed to her feeling that “Broadway is not the place I want to be.”

A Rudin spokesman said he would have no comment.

Olivo, 44, began her Broadway career as an understudy in “Rent.” She broke out in the original cast of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical “In the Heights,” and in 2009 won a Tony Award playing Anita in a revival of “West Side Story.”

She has stepped away from the industry before. In 2013 she relocated to Madison, Wis., where she and her husband have a home and are co-parenting two children. She has been living there since Broadway shut down last spring.

Olivo has been teaching classes virtually at her alma mater, the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, and said she remained committed to helping develop aspiring artists. During the pandemic, she and another actor, Eden Espinosa, also formed an advocacy organization, Afect, that seeks to bring greater financial transparency to the theater industry.

In an interview conducted in December, Olivo expressed concerns about whether Broadway would evolve after the shutdown, and whether she would return to it. “I hope that everyone is working to change the industry and not just trying to get back so we can fill our coffers again,” she said.

“Social justice is actually more important than being the sparkling diamond,” she said in Wednesday’s video, alluding to her “Moulin Rouge!” character, Satine, who is referred to that way in the musical. “Building a better industry for my students is more important than me putting money in my pockets.”

In the telephone interview, Olivo added: “I’m going to make art with the people that I think match my integrity, who want to do it right, and if those people don’t come, then I will make it myself.”

The “Moulin Rouge!” producers said in a statement that the show “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.”

Earlier this week, three entertainment industry unions issued a statement calling for “harassment-free workplaces,” prompted by the Hollywood Reporter story, but not referring to it.

“No worker should be subjected to bullying or harassment, whether or not they are a union member,” said the statement from the presidents of SAG-AFTRA, the Actors’ Equity Association, and the American Federation of Musicians Local 802.