Saying yes

Andrew Brewer stars as the Duke in ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’


Just a few months before the world shut down in 2020, Andrew Brewer turned down an audition for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”

“I had listened to some of the music and thought, ‘There’s absolutely no way I can sing that, so I’m going to say no,’” he said.

The following year, Brewer was out of work and had a lot of time during the COVID shutdowns to evaluate his career.

“I even looked into other jobs. So many people in our industry sat down for so long. It gave you time to think, ‘How bad do I really want this?’”

Fortunately for East Lansing theater lovers, as the entertainment world started to open back up, Brewer made the decision, as he put it, to “go whole hog” and say yes to every audition that came in post-pandemic. He said he’s decided to prioritize theater for at least a few more years.

“I’m getting into my late 30s, and I want to start a family,” he said. “So, it’s time to do or die.”

Because the original touring production was delayed due to the pandemic, the audition for “Moulin Rouge” came around again, and this time, Brewer said yes immediately. The casting process was quick, and he’s been on the road with the show for almost two years. About 10 months into the tour, he moved up from the ensemble and took over the role of the Duke of Monroth.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, which stars Ewan McGregor as Christian, an English poet obsessed with “truth, beauty, freedom and love” who travels to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. At the notorious cabaret topped with a red windmill, he meets and falls in love with actress and high-class courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), and much PG-13-style drama, love and tragedy ensue. Upon its release, the film was celebrated for its postmodern aesthetics like collage and juxtaposition, its meta-narrative (it’s a musical about producing a musical) and its many musical medleys.

Brewer was in high school when the film came out and said it was a “big hit” among his age group.

“I had just started getting into singing, and around that time, *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were clearly getting lots of interest from the young ladies. Theater was just becoming something I wanted to get into,” he said.

The movie features a pastiche of songs by artists like Madonna, Nirvana, Elton John and the Police. Brewer said it was “a big channel into a lot of older music — and I’m putting quotes around ‘older’ — but stuff I hadn’t been exposed to. That started a love of a different era of music.”

Like the film, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” celebrates more than 160 years of music — from Jacques Offenbach to Lady Gaga. It features many of the iconic songs from the movie and also includes more recent hits released since the movie premiered. In 2021, the show took home 10 Tony Awards, including best musical. It was also awarded two Drama League Awards, five Drama Desk Awards and 10 Outer Critics Circle Award honor citations.

Brewer’s character, the Duke, is obsessed with Satine and will stop at nothing to have her.

“The very first thing I sing is, ‘I got money, that’s what I want.’ But of course, it’s not just about the money for him. It’s about the power and the ability to own things,” he said.

The Duke is of a different class; when he attends the Moulin Rouge, he’s, as Brewer said, “stooping” into the underworld. He wants to help the club with financing, “yet he’s there because he has been promised Satine. She’s supposed to be the best courtesan in all of Paris. Those kinds of things drive the Duke. He wants to have something that no one else has,” Brewer said. “He wants to own things. Not caring for them in the traditional meaning of love but putting them on a pedestal. He wants to have these things around him, and he knows they’re his.”

For being cast in such a dark and complicated role, Brewer said he’s “actually a very plain, boring guy in real life.” He said his first “look” in the show is his favorite because it’s completely unlike his personality.

“It’s fun for me to put all that on and express this very ostentatious person with chains, rings, fur, leather — and the boots! It’s the full regalia.”

Like the movie, which is known for its incredible production design, Brewer said the technical aspects of the stage show are “overwhelming, in a good way.” He cited the amount of time and effort put into the design as integral to immersing the audience in the world.

“They really spared no expense and have given everything to this idea. From the bohemians that are ragtag and patched up to the mood lighting, the opulent furniture and the costumes that have so many different feels and fabrics — it’s all designed to give you an experience that’s unforgettab

April theater productions:

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical”

April 3-14

7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

2 p.m. Saturday

1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall

750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing

“Spring Awakening”

April 5-14

7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday; April 13

Wharton Center Pasant Theatre

750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing

“My Emperor’s New Clothes”

LCC Performing Arts

April 5-6 and 12-13

7 p.m. Friday; April 6

2 p.m. Saturday

Dart Auditorium

500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing


April 11-14 and 18-21

7 p.m. Thursday

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday

Riverwalk Theatre Black Box

228 Museum Drive, Lansing

“Alabama Story”

April 18-21 and 25-28

7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday

Stage One at Sycamore Creek Eastwood

2200 Lake Lansing Road, Lansing

“Bright Half Life”

April 11-May 19

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday; Saturday (beginning April 20); May 8 and 15

Williamston Theatre

122 S. Putnam St., Williamston

“Murder on the Orient Express”

April 19-21 and 26-28

7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday

2 p.m. Sunday

Lebowsky Center for Performing Arts

122 E. Main St., Owosso

“The Wind in the Willows”

April 26-28 and May 3-5

7 p.m. Friday

3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Hannah Community Center

819 Abbot Road, East Lansing



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