Broadway star Karen Olivo says she won’t return to “Moulin Rouge” once the musical reopens. She’s leaving her Tony-nominated role in protest of the theater industry’s silence on allegations of workplace harassment and abuse leveled against the prolific theater producer Scott Rudin.
“I could easily go back to the show and make a lot of money, but I still wouldn’t be able to control what I was putting out into the world,” Olivo said Wednesday in a video on Instagram. “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. People aren’t speaking out.”
She specifically called out the behavior of Rudin, who was the subject of a scathing expose in the Hollywood Reporter. The report, published earlier in April, detailed instances of alleged abusive behavior to his employees, including tantrums, racist outbursts and violent behavior.
“The silence about Scott Rudin — unacceptable,” she said. “That one’s easy, y’all. That’s a monster. That should be a no-brainer. Those of you that say you’re scared, what are you afraid of? Shouldn’t you be more afraid of not saying something and more people getting hurt?”
Though Rudin didn’t have a hand in the stage version of “Moulin Rouge,” he is among Broadway’s most successful producers and is hugely influential in the theater community. Before Broadway went dark last March due to the pandemic, “Moulin Rouge” was one of the most popular shows on the Great White Way and received numerous Tony Award nominations. Olivo landed a Tony nod for her portrayal of Satine, the role originated by Nicole Kidman in the 2001 Baz Luhrmann movie musical.
“Social justice is actually more important than being the sparkling diamond,” Olivo said. “Building a better industry for my students is more important than me putting money in my pockets.”
Days prior to Olivo’s announcement, three entertainment industry unions — SAG-AFTRA, Actors’ Equity Association and American Federation of Musicians Local 802 — released a joint statement to condemn workplace harassment, bullying and violent behavior. Though the statement didn’t name Rudin, it came in the wake of the Hollywood Reporter article, which gained traction within the business.
“Every corporate Board of Directors should be deeply alarmed by credible reports of long-standing, repeated violent and aggressive harassing behavior by individuals who hold high positions within a company or on a production and exercise management power over subordinates. Workers who come forward to blow the whistle in these situations are incredibly brave and we applaud their courage,” the statement said.
Olivo had previously spoken out against the industry’s inaction but stopped short of calling out anyone in specific.
“Saying ‘that’s just the way our industry is…’ won’t stop people from harm,” she wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “We deserve better especially those who NEED to work. The fiscally vulnerable are most likely to be taken advantage of. My paycheck is not more important than someone’s safety. #useYourPower”
In her video on Wednesday, Olivo encouraged people to practice humanity and reiterated that money should not be the motivating factor in people’s actions.
“People are more important than your pocketbook,” she concluded. “I want a theater industry that matches my integrity. It’s not here, obviously. Let’s go make it.