When the “Moulin Rouge” reopened on Broadway on Friday night after the doors of the Covid-19 closed, Robin Harder returned, not just as one of the stars, but as Tony Nominee.
On Sunday night’s awards show, Harder is ready for the best performance by a featured actress in a musical instrument to play Nini. Before the ceremony, Harder was spoken to Diversity About the honor, returning to Broadway and reuniting with his customers.
How do you feel about tonight’s tennis as a nominee?
I live in the moment and I am pretty good at doing it. But I’m not going to lie, everything looks a little crazy. It’s at the same level as your senior prom and your wedding day – it’s all days to get ready.
How did it reunite with your cast?
It’s amazing to come back together. We have a third new cast. Lots of new people and lots of Broadway debuts. Their strength brings much more to the show. When you see someone on the opening night and it’s their Broadway debut, it’s like your Broadway debut again. We are really happy with all the new additions, especially Natalie [Mendoza who replaced Tony-nominee Karen Olivo as Satine].
How was it when everyone reunited for the first time?
Everyone has a different reaction. I didn’t know how I was I would react on the first day of my rehearsal. I will say, I was right. But I am also the queen of delayed response.
Until I was going back to my first day and I was crossing the street that I always took with my best friend Max Clayton, who is no longer on the show. But it hurt me. I was really sad, and I was like, “I miss Max and I can’t believe he won’t come here to rehearse with me.” And then he made me facetime, and I lost it. I had a total breakdown. Everything has been made from the last 16 months … I just, everything fell on the phone with him. It was the perfect release I needed to get back. It almost felt like a clean slate.
How are things coming back?
We’re not doing “Moulin Rouge” in 2019, we’re doing it, we’re doing this version. And I think this version is bright and beautiful and going back to the theater, you get that energy again. You know you’re going back to something special, and we’re going to make a lot of people happy. It’s intense. There is a lot of energy going on in the theater.
How has acting on this show changed since the pre-epidemic?
Everyone is different. It’s not just us that have changed our perspective, it’s the audience. People understand how important we need live theater, how much we need live art in our lives. It bounces back from the audience to the cast. That’s why I do it. I literally call it my medicine. I just love to perform on stage for an audience and feel that energy, and hear how we take them to a place for two and a half hours.
How did you prepare for the physicality of the show?
I was trying to move my best months forward [to prepare]. That three months I was, “Okay, now is the time”, I didn’t really take dance classes, but I did so much jump rope and dance cardio and weightlifting and things like that just to get back the strength and my cardiovascular shape. The thing is, I have no way to get back in shape until I start making the material. The things I do on the show are very wild and unnatural. I can’t do anything on my own to replicate what I have to do for my own condition – it’s purely choreography.
The cast of “Moulin Rouge” was really impressed by Covid.
“Moulin Rouge” slammed. We all got Kovid. That was right in the beginning.
How was March 12 for you when Broadway announced it was closing?
There are some days in your life that you don’t remember, and then there are some days where you remember every moment. It’s March 12th for me. It burned in my memory forever.
[Our company manager shared] One of our cast members came down with a cove-like symptom … they both decided to cancel the show. We were so rude. Instantly we were like, “Oh, great. Holiday.” I was like “OK great, I’ll go home and see my son.” Thirty minutes after that meeting of ours, my phone blew up that all Broadway shows were being canceled.
Then the shutdown was extended …
My real breakdown was when the first extension happened. I could not stop crying for two to three days. I can’t get it together. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was a pretty positive, strong person and I wasn’t right.
I think all together [getting COVID, the extension and loss of Broadway star and friend Nick Cordero] It was just … I crashed. Then you get better and then a few months later I was like, “Oh, Dang, I really like being home.” This whole 18 months has been such a roller coaster.
But tonight you can celebrate!
I still can’t believe I was nominated for Friesian Tony. I tell you, it wasn’t on my radar. I am just grateful for being in this moment.
[My husband, Clyde Alves] Not leaving my side all night. She is attached to me. I came here because of him. This boy has put me together. She’s my everything. I’m still here, I’m still doing musical theater because of him. It was the biggest night of my career. How can he not be right next to me?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.