Show People with Paul Wontorek: Robyn Hurder of MOULIN ROUGE!

Show People with Paul Wontorek: Robyn Hurder of MOULIN ROUGE!

(jazzy music) – Robyn Hurder is a certified
Broadway triple threat. Having wowed audiences
in shows like Chicago, Grease, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. Now she’s in the spotlight
showing off her chops and making audiences’ jaws
drop as Nini in the dazzling Moulin Rouge!. Here Hurder talk about growing up as a theater-loving scrap
wagon, balancing day time Robyn with night time Nini
and more on this week’s Show People. (jazzy music) Robyn Huder, thank you for being here. – Thank you for having me. – Oh my god you’re in Moulin Rouge!. The biggest like show of the season and I love this company but
I especially love seeing you kicking your legs in my face. I felt like I sat really close. – I really, I really am kicking my leg and showing you all of me. – Yeah, a lot of you. So how do you feel up
there showing a lot of you to Broadway and people
are clamoring for tickets and I mean it’s an event. – It is. It’s really exciting, none
of us have ever been a part of something like this. I don’t think. I mean it’s just massive. Every night we go out and we’re like wow, look it’s, it’s sold out again. You can’t see one empty
seat in the theater and especially in the opening
you see everybody’s faces and you see it runs the gamut. It’s like people don’t
know what they’ve gotten themselves into. People are just like, their
faces are being melted, people are so happy. Some people are a little stoic
but it’s because they just don’t know what’s hit them.
– Right. – And it’s a thrill to see that. – Yeah.
– You know what I mean? Every single night and you’re
like wow look at that one, look at that one, look at that one. – It’s true you know, you’ve had a long Broadway
career and you’ve been in hits. And being in a hit is a nice thing but there are certain shows
that sort of go above that right and it just becomes this
extra electric moment. – I’ve never been a part
of something this kind of monumental. And it’s, it’s just
exciting to see what’s, what’s going to happen. – Right, and you play Nini.
– I do. – And Nini is inspired by a real person. – Yeah it’s funny. There’s only a few actual real characters. Toulouse-Lautrec, obviously. – You mean Christian and
Satine didn’t really. – They really didn’t, right? I mean I’m sure there was some
story back in you know, 1899. But, no actually there
was a girl who kind of was the dance captain so to
speak of the quadrille. And she, her name was
Nini Legs in the Air. And the reason why she
was called Legs in the Air was because she had this signature trick. I can’t really do it now, I actually I can’t do it, I’ve been practicing for two years. But she’s got this thing
where she holds her leg underneath her arm like
this and she sticks her leg up in the air and she,
it’s almost like she does a nerve tap. She doesn’t shake the leg,
she just shakes her foot. And I, it’s kind of like. – You actually can kind of do it. – I can’t do it at all. I can do like a nerve tap
but putting it up in the air I can’t do it.
– Yeah. – Yeah I’ve seen some photos of her and she’s absolutely atrocious looking. Like she’s, I’m like whoa girl. It’s intense. So I’m not really like
basing my character off her. – You’re not really basing
your look off of her. – No but I am, I am basing
it like she kind of is the head of you know the can can dancers and back then she was the
one that would recruit the new girls and teach
them all the tricks, the back bends, the
kicks, and all that stuff. And show the young ones how it’s done. – When this movie came out I
was obsessed from the minute I saw it at the Ziegfeld
Theater the day it came out. I was like obsessed. And is it true that you
actually had your eye on this role? – I did. Yeah.
– Caroline O’Connor. Who’s also been on Broadway
and also you share Chicago. You have Chicago in common right? Have you ever met her? – I haven’t met her yet. – Okay, she hasn’t been by. She’s lovely. – I, everybody says she’s
lovely and I don’t get starstruck a lot but that
one I’m gonna be a big old weirdo with her. (laughing) I’m probably not gonna know what to say. – And she had this incredible
“Roxanne,” the number, in the movie. – Well when I was, when
I was 19 that’s when the movie came out. I saw it opening weekend. I’m watching it and
when “Roxanne” happened I started shaking. I mean I loved the whole movie, I was obsessed with it. But when that scene happened.
– There was a moment. – I was shaking and crying and, and at the end of the
movie I couldn’t leave the theater for like 10 minutes
because I was convulsing, like crying.
– Wow. But I was walking away and
I was like that needs to be a musical obviously but
I’m like I need to be her. Like I need to be the tango dancer. – You know when I saw the
movie I said this needs to be a musical and I need
to be an audience member. Which shows how we’re different. ‘Cause I had been waiting for this, this musical to come along. – I think everybody has,
it’s been a long time coming but I think that’s why you
know it’s so successful is because they weren’t just gonna like let’s get this on stage. This was 10 years in the making. – And Baz Luhrmann is around and I mean. – And Uncle Baz.
– That’s crazy. – Which is crazy that
I’m like oh Baz was by. Like recording the album
I was like yeah Baz was in my ear directing
me how to say my lines and I’m just like what is
happening in my life right now? – Crazy. We’re gonna talk a lot
about sort of the life of a Broadway performer
because you’ve had such an interesting career. You got the role for a reading
and it wasn’t just like a clear sail through
from that first reading to opening night. – No, it definitely wasn’t. – It wasn’t, it feels like
you kind of had to keep proving yourself along the way. – I did and, and it’s worth it. There were times where I you know, what I always say flip a table. And just like run away.
(laughing) Yeah, I, but I, I understand. They need, they’re
trying to figure out this perfect recipe to make this
spectacular spectacular and they didn’t really know, Nini’s a tricky character
because it is different from the movie and it is
the other female principal in the show and it’s trying
to figure out which direction do you wanna take her in. – You wanna do the work
and do the work really well and not get distracted by
the outcome of the work. You know what I mean? That’s sort of a hard balance. – It was hard and I went through, I mean it was a tough time
’cause I was also doing double duty during the lab. I was doing double duty with Chicago and I was exhausted, I was tired. But, and the only reason
why I was going through this gamut of emotions is
because I care so much and I was like I just, when
I know something is right I’m like this has to be it. Like there’s no way I
can’t have this role. – Yeah. – And fortunately by the end of the lab I got the offer and I was like I did it. – You did it. – I’m exhausted. – I love following you on Instagram. I feel like you offer a
very sort of candid look at the life of a Broadway star. And I love that. I love recently you did
like side by side photos of your day look and then your night look. You as a mom.
– Absolutely. – The grocery store look maybe. Yep, and then Nini.
– Yes. – And I love that. I love that, and I think you
kind of said like that you need both and you need to
sort of be able to jump into Nini at night and then.
– You need it. – Just be Robyn during
the day and be a mom and a wife and. – It’s when those scales,
when the scale starts to go like this that’s when I go cuckoo. And I need to have that
outlet, that artistic outlet, that wild, crazy like I still
feel like I’m 20 years old on stage and fooling around
with everyone backstage. But that’s just a little part of me, that’s like the medicine
that I need every day. – Right. – But I also need to wake up in my house with deer and bunnies
and my kid jumping on me. I need both.
– Yeah. – And it makes me happy. – Now Hudson, your son, I
love that name by the way. – Thank you. – What does he think of Nini? – He does not care. He doesn’t, he’s like did
you do the can can dance? – I said yep. – Did you ra ra ra ah ah ah? And I’m like yep. He’s like how’d it go? I’m like it went really well. He’s like okay. Mom, will play Legos with me? Like he doesn’t, he just, it’s. You know and I show him
videos of me dancing and he’s like mhm, and then
he just wants to play soccer or you know he doesn’t care. Or he’s like well let’s go
downstairs and dance in the basement and I’m like mommy’s tired. (laughing) – Right.
– I’m really tired. But we will, we’ll get
back down there again. – That’s amazing. – Yeah he’s a normal dude. – A healthy attitude about, about it. – Yeah and I bring him, and
he loves coming to the theater man, I mean. Clyde and I get a little
irritated because. – Clyde Alves, super talented husband. – We get like a little like
okay here we go because everybody gets so excited at the theater and they just like rile him up and he’s like yeah I’m crazy! Like all that energy. And then I’m like. – This child needs to fall asleep. – Exactly and then I’m
like here you go babe. Have a good drive home in
rush hours traffic, yeah. (laughing) But no, he loves, he loves the, he loves being around the theater. Everybody in the theater
but he’d rather be you know Legos and soccer. – Legos and soccer. Okay we’re gonna talk more
about the incredible life of Robyn Hurder right after this break. (jazzy music) We are back with Robyn Hurder. She is Nini in Moulin Rouge!. You knew that, you love her.
(laughing) I interviewed you about a
year ago on Live at Five. I believe you said that you were singing as a little girl in Maine,
you grew up in Maine, you were singing “Tits
and Ass” by age eight? – I was.
– That was a quote. I wanna hear about that girl. I wanna know everything about that girl. I’ve seen pictures of
her on your fantastic Instagram account. – Like just a scrap wagon, like just a tomboy. I like calling myself a
scrap wagon ’cause it just still rings true. I’m a, the youngest of two older brothers. – Okay. – That explains a lot. When I tell people
they’re like ah, I get it. – You had a boy’s t-shirt on, you made a comment that it was a boy’s, was it like a hand me down? – Yeah it was my brother’s. And I just have like Popsicle stained face and like just a rat’s nest. – A rat’s nest. – Right in the back, just like anyway. My parents took me to musicals. – Dennis and Gail.
– Dennis and Gail. – I wanna know all about Dennis and Gail. – Oh I love my parents. They just actually saw the show. – Do they like seeing you wearing little and kicking your legs up and? – I don’t think they even care. I actually did modify some
movement for my father. I was like Reed, just reel
it in just a little bit, my dad’s right there. So just like not grab,
grab me like you do. But, yeah they come to all the, they love it. They are the most supportive
parents and they’ve, they’ve been at every
single show since I was you know doing my dance recitals at six. – Right, so you got into
dance and sort of performance really early. – Yeah my, my parents brought me to Cats. Cats was the one, she was
the one that I was like I need to be on Broadway. – And where was that,
where’d you see Cats? – It was the national tour in Portland. – Did the cats crawl up
near you anywhere or? – Oh yeah, so Rum, I didn’t
realize they went through the audience. – Yeah I know, when I
was a kid I was like what is happening? – I don’t know if they did
it in the revival here. But the Rum Tum Tugger
back then he would run down the aisle, dance with a
lady, and then he’d take her face and kiss her. And then he’d throw her
back down and that happened two rows in front of me. And I remember getting
the souvenir program and for the rest of the
show I was terrified a cat was gonna kiss me. And I kind of had a crush on him. So I just had this souvenir
program up on my face ’cause, and I was terrified the
whole show that he was gonna kiss me. And I didn’t want him to and
I’m like girl, you’re six. I don’t think he’s going
to but you know back then I was just like oh my god I’m so nervous. (laughing) Anyway, but they took
me to a bunch of shows. My first Broadway show was
Damn Yankees when I was 11 years old. It was the revival with. – Victor Garber.
– Victor Garber. – Bebe Neuwirth. – Who is my show crush forever. – That was a fantastic
production, they were fantastic. – It’s everything to me still. I mean I was sitting in
the Marriott Marquee, and I see, and you know
he says get me Lola. And you hear all this big band music and then Lola comes up out of the ground. Everything’s pink, platinum blonde wig, and she just enters out of
the floor on the chaise lounge and I turned to my mom and I said mommy I wanna do that when I grow up. And that was it. And I still do. So someone needs to revive Damn Yankees and I need to be Lola. – Well okay. Two things, A, you are doing
it in the sense that you’re having many of those moments
every night in Moulin Rouge!. B, yes you need to play
Lola in Damn Yankees. That’s a fantastic role for you. – I just love that show so much. And what’s really cool is
that you know years go by and when I got into Chicago
in 2007 Bebe Neuwirth happened to be playing Roxy. And it was a kid’s night on Broadway. And Bebe wanted everybody to go around and say what was their first Broadway show that they saw when they were a kid. And so the first night I was too terrified ’cause I was still
terrified of Bebe Neuwirth. (laughing) ‘Cause I still couldn’t
believe I was in Chicago of all shows with her.
– Right. – And the second night
I was like Robyn do it because I think a lot of
people wanna hear this in the audience. – Yeah.
– The kids. And I’m 24 years old, I’m shaking, and she’s like oh Robyn,
and I was like oh wow she actually knows my name. And like I get the mic and I said, and I told the story. I said you know my whole
thing about seeing her and I said mom I wanna
do that when I grow up. And then audience just
like blew up clapping and Bebe gave me a hug and
I was like what is my life right now? It was pretty amazing. – Wow, that is amazing.
– Yeah. – So let’s talk about
the Portland Players. Isn’t there where you first got on stage? – You are amazing.
– Mary Magdalene? – Yes. – Type cast as Mary Mag,
from Mary Magdalene to Nini. – That was my first taste of like hmm, I like being a star.
(laughing) Like I think I’m gonna like it here. – Well let’s talk about
that because what was your first Broadway show? – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
– Right. In the ensemble of
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Which I saw, the car flew. – It flew that night.
– Yeah. (laughing) – We had a lot, we had a
lot of those are we gonna get a half day, are they
gonna cancel the show? And they never did, we
just were delayed an hour. – Right. – Trying to fix the car. – Okay, it was one of those shows. – But when it did work it was magical. – Yes it was magical the night I went. It all came together that night. (laughing) And I actually first met you
on opening night of Grease. And you were playing
Marty, Freddie my love. And that was a great company of actors. – It was. – It was the revival that came
after the reality show right? Where they cast Max Crumm and Laura Osnes. I remember the final
episode of the reality show. Didn’t some of the cast do that? – Oh yeah yeah, when they
put me in white pants. I was like you’re gonna put
me in white pants on tv? – That’s the trauma for
you, the white pants. – I literally, I literally
was like white pants, okay. I mean it was so cute. Yeah that was such a trip.
– Yeah. I actually remember interviewing you and Marty was such a big moment
for you because it was like I’m getting to be one of the principals. I’m getting to do like
you said the star moment. And that’s always really
interesting in Broadway careers. When you get the opportunity
to play a role like that because then it’s sort of
like well what is the path from there right? – Yeah and it’s. – And that’s something that
I don’t really talk about that much with people
but it’s really sort of an interesting balance to sort
of play that a little bit. – Yeah and you have to, you
have to figure out what, you know ’cause it’s interesting. When I got Marty I was 25. And that’s a very right type for me. It’s the, you know I’m
not dumb but just you know the little, the little bombshell. Maybe not terribly bright,
she sings a sassy song, she’s not wearing a lot of clothing. – Are those the Robyn Hurder? – The Robyn Hurder things. And, then begins type cast. – ‘Cause I think of you as Mary Magdalene so you know it’s very different. Sorry go ahead. – After Grease I get
Cassie in A Chorus Line. – Yeah, right. – I was supposed to go out
as Val which is what I really wanted to do and what
I should’ve been doing at that age. You know that’s like dream
role, never got to do it. And sadly I think I aged out of it. (laughing) I think I did. But I was supposed to go out as Val and I couldn’t ’cause I
couldn’t get out of my Grease contract. And then six months later
they offered my Cassie. And that’s where I got very confused and then didn’t work for three years because I didn’t know who I was. I do the tour and I come back and I’m going on these auditions. I’m like I’m not doing anymore ensemble. Like no, I’m not gonna dance, I did Marty and now I’m doing Cassie and because I did Cassie
now I have to not go in for those dumb blonde roles anymore. – Well and also when
you’re a fantastic dancer you could just get sort of
non-stop work just dancing. – Yep and I didn’t wanna do that. I want, I want to not
dance like anybody else. I wanna do my own thing. And, and sing, and be in the spotlight. – Show off all your talents, yeah. – I, I just I like it okay, I like it. – Sure, right.
(laughing) – And that, those three years really, I just really like, I plummeted. I didn’t, I just was
failing every audition, getting cut, not getting any callbacks. And I was like who am I? I don’t know what I want
and then all of a sudden Nice Work came along again. Like that came around and. – Nice Work could’ve just
been a general saying. Like Nice Work came along. Could’ve been anything. – Really really nice work.
– It’s an actual show. – [Both] Nice Work If You Can Get It. – With Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara. And that kind of brought me back to life. It was like a mature type cast dumb blonde but I had a really good time with it and I kind of released like
just go in for what you’re right for and what’s right is
going to come to you. And do the best you can with it. And I had a great time during Nice Work. And then I was like now
it’s time to have a baby. – That sounds like a good. – On that note. – Opportunity for a commercial break. We’ll be right back
with more Robyn Hurder. (jazzy music) (jazzy music) We are back with Robyn Hurder. She’s killing it every
night in Moulin Rouge!. You mentioned Cassie
’cause you did play Cassie and you also played Cassie last year. We talked about this at City Center. You were fantastic. You like blew my mind, made me cry, and it really felt like meaningful. It was really
– It was real. Even thinking about it now
I get a lump in my throat because it’s like I know
what it feels like now. I know what it is to go through
what that woman went though and it was a gift to
be able to do it again ’cause I did it 10 years prior and I didn’t know what I was doing. I was making pretend.
– Yeah. – You don’t wanna make
pretend with that role, you wanna do it.
– Right. Is that when you met Clyde? – No, I met.
– Your husband, Clyde Alves. – I met Clyde and Maine
State Music Theater when I was 19-years-old. I was an intern at Maine
State Music Theater. I was obsessed with him. Okay, we both, he had a
girlfriend, I had a boyfriend. Obsessed with him. So obsessed I’d go into. – I knew him from The
Music Man on Broadway. – Yes.
– He was fantastic as Tommy. That was sort of a big moment. – Yes.
– It was after that. – It was after that yeah. It was in like 2000 and, 2001. It was right after that. I mean, it was like he would touch me and be like hi Robyn and
I’d run to the dressing room and be like Clyde Alves just touched me. He just touched my shoulder. – He was super cute. – He was adorable. Is really so still cute. And now he’s a dad.
(laughing) But three years go by and we don’t talk, don’t see him at all
and we end up working at Maine State Music Theater again. And when I saw him I was like nope, I think, I think I love him. And I then literally we
started kind of dating that summer. – Who made the move? – I definitely did.
– You definitely did. – I was like you’re mine. – And you were kind of like, like okay he’s back in Maine
for this amount of time. I gotta make this happen while he’s here. – Yes, we had just broken
up with our other halves and I was like you’re mine. Come here.
– And it worked. – And it worked. We ended up moving in
with each other four weeks after dating. – And they said it wouldn’t last. – And 15 years later.
(laughing) We, we still really like each other. It’s good.
– That’s amazing. – Yeah yeah yeah. – What do you really like about him? He’s a really, he’s a super
talented, very charming guy. – He makes me, I always look at him, I’m like man, you make me
want to be a better person. Like ’cause he’s so good. He is such an amazing father. He’s so, oh gosh he’s
so smart, he’s so on it, he’s not forgetful like me. He really keeps me in line. And I know that I, I do things for him too but he takes care of my,
my heart and my soul, and my sanity with this business. I mean I learned everything from him. Like he was basically
my mentor when I was, the time that we were
dating I would just ask him all these questions. ‘Cause I’m like what is
this land called Broadway? You’ve done it, like what is it like? And he told me, he’s like Robyn, I can tell you’re gonna succeed. He’s like you have something special and you just need to keep
believing it ’cause he’s like it’s going to happen for
you sooner than you think. – Wow.
– And it did. – So you did get to a
point where you were like we wanna start a family. – I did, I needed a minute. I needed a minute from after
Nice Work and he’s like let’s do it. It was harder than I thought. I think a lot of moms in
this business don’t realize how much it takes out of you
and what it does to your, you know ’cause you kind
of lose your identity. For, for me, two years,
’cause mommy did not lose that weight breast feeding. She just hung onto a lot of poundage. But you’re, you know I was
out of work for two years and trying to keep a human alive and of course it’s amazing and beautiful and you love it but it’s
also the hardest thing ever. Especially because you’re
like well I used to go out till two in the morning
and I was the social bug and I was the life of the party and I loved to go to work at night and sing and dance and
not wear clothes on stage. And, and now I’m like you
know fat, greasy, and crazy, holding a baby that’s screaming. And it’s really a trip. And you don’t think you’re
gonna come out of it but it’s just you know, it’s a moment and it passes. And it’s pretty amazing. I’m proud of myself but
I’m also proud of all, how many moms are on
Broadway now that are just killing it.
– Yeah. – You know and they look
amazing and they seem so happy and you know,
you can, you can do both. – And it’s great that you
have Clyde too as your partner to rely on. It’s tricky when you’re both performers because you do kind of have
to like balance opportunities. – Yeah we’ve, but we’ve
been very very fortunate that for some reason it’s
like when I got pregnant he got Bullets Over Broadway. And then when after Bullets
Over Broadway happened then On the Town came in. He was killing it in On the Town. – Yes he was, fantastic. – And bringing home the bacon and now it’s reversed. And I think it’s interesting
because I needed to be there with Hudson at that time. Like he needs his mother. Right now even though I’m trying to, you know I’m up at 6:45 as
much as I can to just see him off to school and then I go back to sleep. Like he needs Clyde right now. Like Clyde is doing
soccer drills with him, making sure his homework is done. – Got it. – Bringing him to hockey. You know all this stuff and
he’s forming such a good bond with Hudson right now at such a, you know he’s five and a half. And it’s such a good age
and it’s amazing to see. – I love it. – But right now we call
it the Broadway bakery. And like I go and make the donuts. Sometimes I work a double.
(laughing) – I love that. – And literally Hudson’s
like have fun making the donuts.
(laughing) – You’re obviously a very
talented actress, singer, dancer, people really
love to see you dance. I love to see you dance, I love to see that like, the Nini thing. Up in the air. When you think about this
business and sort of aging in this business, and
I’m sure you’ve talked to a lot of dancers and you’ve
seen sort of how dancers careers change over the years. Does that enter your mind
at all when you think about your career and sort
of where things are going? And how does it influence you? – This role in particular
has really sparked that thought process because
it is extremely aggressive dancing, movement, partnering. I mean I’m literally
being thrown on the ground at night and I’m, this
is the first year that I really started to feel
my body is getting older. I feel like this might be, I’m not saying my swan
song for real dancing, but it might be my swan
song for real dancing. It’s just, I’m getting tired
and I also wanna exercise you know, I really would
love to just do that old park and bark. Maybe do a bevel and a kick. But, you know we’ll see. I always said when I was younger I, I don’t know why but I feel like my prime is going to be in my mid to late 30s. I’ve said that, you can
ask Clyde when I was, when we just met. I said I don’t know why I
feel like I’m gonna do this but my prime is when I’m
gonna be in my late 30s. And here we are.
(laughing) – In the prime.
– I’m here. (laughing) – Now you’re here. – Closer to 40, I don’t care. – Yeah I love it. I can see you doing all kinds of things. Although I should by the way point out that right now you are
stopping the show at the top of act two. At that, I mean like
literally worth the price of admission alone.
(laughing) I mean what you and Ricky
Rojas are doing at the top, and I don’t wanna say much
because people don’t know, some of them, you just
go see it because that, I mean that number alone is just amazing. – It’s, it’s a pretty fun number and doing it every night with Ricky. It’s so funny, people ask
me, they’re like how are you and Ricky like that’s really,
you know intimate stuff. And I’m like we’re
literally dudes together and that’s what’s so, it’s such a blessing that there is such safety. Like it’s such a safe
place where we don’t even, we’re not even thinking about it. We’re just like doing it. We have such a good relationship. We’re literally like bros. – Yeah. So that’s a good company
over at the Hirschfeld? – They’re family.
– Yeah. – I love them. I love going to work so I can see them. We all have a good time. Even though like during
the show you don’t really, the show moves so quickly.
– It’s so intense. – When people are sitting in the audience they’re like it just goes by so fast I can’t believe it was
two hours and 40 minutes. And I’m like we can’t either. You know what I mean? Like ’cause we’re, it’s
just so fast backstage. – You can tell that a lot
of heart and soul was put into it because it is just spectacular. – As they say, as the
side of the theater says spectacular, spectacular, spectacular, all the show quotes. – All the spectacular quotes. And then it deserves every one of them. Robyn, I adore you. Thank you so much for being here. Everyone go see Moulin
Rouge! at the Al Hirschfeld. Get your tickets, get your tickets. It’s, the energy level
is higher than ever. It’s just gonna keep blowing up bigger. So just go see it now. Thank you for watching, see you next time. (jazzy music)

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  1. For the exchange starting around 0:59, note that there's one Moulin Rouge cast member who was in the OBC of Hamilton. So I wouldn't say nobody has been a part of something like this.

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