Live from New York: Aaron Tveit

By Jonathan Shia
Photography by Gabriela Celeste
Styling by Raymond Gee

Grooming by Junya Nakashima. 
Stylist’s assistants: Amanata Adams and Diego Ortega.

The weekend in late September that Aaron Tveit finally returned to the stage as the lovestruck leading man of the Broadway spectacular Moulin Rouge! The Musical after eighteen months away ended with another personal triumph, his long-overdue first Tony Award after over fifteen years of performing. Tveit was the only nominee in his category, one of many unprecedented situations the pandemic created for the shortened 2019-2020 season and a somewhat fitting reminder that he stands apart from his peers as a musical theater star after a career that has stretched through a string of hits from Hairspray and Wicked to Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can. “We are so privileged to get to do this, to be on Broadway, to have a life in the theater,” he said in his acceptance speech, pausing to hold back his tears.


Even in a normal year, Tveit’s performance as Christian in Moulin Rouge!, an adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 love story about an impoverished composer and a consumptive cabaret actress in Belle Epoque Montmartre that shuffles Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Outkast, the White Stripes, and Britney Spears into the original overflowing playlist, would have stood out. Revisiting the role, which he originated in a 2018 run in Boston, after the long shutdown has offered an opportunity for rediscovery. “I went back in the rehearsal studio and it was a very surreal experience because we’d be re-stepping through things and my body would kind of know what to do. I didn’t understand what was happening or what I was supposed to do, but my body was doing it anyway,” he laughs. “What’s also been very exciting is that we’ve gotten to go back in with fresh eyes. You don’t often, in a long run, get to go back to the beginning and relook at things and find new things. It’s been fascinating. Everyone brings their collective experience over the last eighteen months into the room. We’re all the same people, but we’re all different people.”



As one of the fortunate Broadway actors with a steady screen career, Tveit had a surprisingly productive 2020. He filmed a Hallmark Christmas movie before starring in American Horror Stories and the Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon!, a spoof of old-fashioned musicals led by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key as a feuding contemporary couple who find themselves trapped in a town where everyone sings and dances. Tveit’s Danny Bailey, a ne’er-do-well carnival barker, was inspired by Carousel’s Billy Bigelow. “We were very aware that at the time, we might have been some of the only people anywhere getting to do a musical,” he says. “Our crew actually said that to us, ‘We’re getting live, in-person concerts and we don’t know who else in the world is getting that,’ so that struck us. Not that we wouldn’t have taken it seriously anyway, but it really made it that much more meaningful. I’m extremely grateful for the fact that I was able to work through all of this somehow, and what that did for my own mental health and psyche as a person who loves to work. I think I would’ve been in much worse shape personally if it wasn’t for that.”

安定したスクリーンキャリアを持つ幸運なブロードウェイ俳優の一人として、トヴェイトは驚くほど充実した2020年を過ごした。ホールマークのクリスマス映画を撮影した後、「アメリカン・ホラー・ストーリーズ」とApple TV+のシリーズ「シュミガドーン!」に出演した。この作品は往年のミュージカルのパロディで、セシリー・ストロングとキーガン=マイケル・キーが仲違い中の今どきのカップルを演じ、誰もが歌って踊る町に閉じ込められる。トヴェイトが演じるダニー・ベイリーは、『回転木馬』のビリー・ビグローにヒントを得ている。「当時、僕たちはミュージカルを演じられる唯一の人間であることを強く意識していました」と彼は言った。「スタッフは実際にそう言っていました。『私たちは今、生でコンサートをしているけど、世界中どこに行っても、今それができる人は他にいないよ』って。これには感動しました。そのことを考えていなかったわけではないけれど、それ以上に意味があることだったんです。僕は、この仕事を何とかやり遂げることができたこと、そしてそれが僕自身の精神的な健康や、仕事を愛する人間としての精神的な助けになったことにとても感謝しています。あれがなかったら、僕はもっとひどい状態になっていたと思います」

Tveit also remains thankful to the Moulin Rouge! producersfor their steadiness over the course of the pandemic. “Through all of this, they said for us it was never an if, it was only a when,” he recalls. When the official announcement came that the show would restart in September, his sense of relief was overwhelming. “It was really difficult to see things and hear things and read about the show, so I had to treat it with a little bit of distance” at first, he says. “I don’t think it was until we fully knew we were coming back and when that I even allowed myself to start to think and dream about the return, because it was too painful.”

トヴェイトはまた、Moulin Rouge! のプロデューサーたちがパンデミックの間も変わらず対応してくれたことに感謝している。「このような状況の中で、彼らは(復帰は)『もしも』ではなく、『いつ』だと言ってくれました」と彼は振り返る。9月の公演再開が正式に発表されたときは、安堵感でいっぱいになった。「最初は、ショーについて見たり聞いたり、記事を読んだりするのがとても辛くて、少し距離を置いて接していました」と彼は言う。「復帰する時が完全に分かるまでは、復帰のことを考えはじめたり、夢を見たりすることを自分に許すことさえできなかったんです。あまりにも辛くて。」

Illnesses spread easily in the winding corridors and tiny dressing rooms backstage at a Broadway theater. The company of Moulin Rouge! experienced the threat of Covid-19 firsthand in March 2020, when the producers canceled a Thursday matinee even as ticket holders were lining up outside while two sick cast members awaited their test results. Hours later, the entire industry shut down. “The couple weeks leading up to the end of February, we started to notice a couple masks in the audience, but the biggest difference was there was a vibe in the room,” Tveit recalls. “Our audience had been so celebratory and excited, and they still were, but there was just a little bit of heaviness in the air.” Tveit and several others caught Covid, all of them eventually recovering. “It’s still incredible to think back on,” he adds. “You really can’t even understand that that was real sometimes.”


With new protocols requiring masks and vaccinations, Tveit insists that the theater is now one of the safest places to be. Moulin Rouge!, in particular, feels especially appropriate for our new age. “Our story is a group of artists during a pandemic trying to find a place to express their art,” Tveit says. “Now it’s very much art imitating life imitating art. We even have a woman coughing herself to death on stage, which is going to mean something very different now to the audience than it did before. There’s a lot of things about our show that are that much more at the forefront of the story that we’re telling now.”


The other major cultural shift Broadway is facing involves issues of equity and representation. A year after widespread protests for racial justice, the new season features more Black artists than ever before, a change that Tveit says he hopes will become permanent. As difficult as the past twenty months have been for the industry, he still focuses optimistically on the silver lining. “I think we’ve had this awakening about so many things that maybe people didn’t want to look right at previously, but they were forced to look at. I just hope that that’s a good thing for all of us,” he elaborates. “I hope we look back in ten or twenty-five years and say, ‘Oh that was the moment that things began to change.’ Nothing’s going to happen overnight, but we’re now on this other path. I do believe that if everyone hadn’t been forced to stop the million things going on in their lives and really look at some things that are happening, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened. So I do hope that this ultimately is a good thing.”