Featured photo: Andrew Brewer as the Duke of Monroth (photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)

Actor Andrew Brewer, 36, plays the Duke of Monroth in the North American Broadway tour of Moulin Rouge, which opens at the Tanger Center in Greensboro on Tuesday and runs through April 28. The musical, which debuted in 2018, is based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. In the film, McGregor plays Christian, a poet who falls in love with Kidman’s character, a cabaret performer and courtesan named Satine. In our conversation Brewer talked about imposter syndrome, self-care and his favorite part about playing the lead antagonist of the show.

How did you get started in musical theater?

I’m from a small town in Indiana and got into musical theater in college. I had known some musical theater before but I went to a very, very small high school — we had a graduating class of six — so we didn’t really have shows or anything like that. 

When I went to college, I made my way from math teacher to vocal performance and then switched to musical theater.

Then, I moved to New York City in 2011 and started auditioning. The first show I got was Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, we actually came to Greensboro during that tour. And then in 2020, the pandemic hit and I started thinking about my career and what it is that I want.

Tell me about that time in your life.

Well, I re-evaluated everything in 2020 and decided to go whole hog. I decided that post pandemic, I was just going to say yes to everything. I had been asked to audition for Moulin Rouge in 2019 and didn’t hear anything for about six months. But then one day, I heard back and I’ve been on the road since the show started in 2022.

It sounds like you took a nontraditional route into the industry. How has that affected your career?

Yeah, so I was halfway through school and I hadn’t performed at all. I felt kind of behind; I wasn’t as far along as my peers were. And the other thing about musical theater is that your job ends; no matter what show you get, it has an end date.

We usually work about 8-12 weeks performance wise. Broadway shows are tricky and can last for years or they can last just a few weeks. There’s never been that security. So to have a show like this where we’re scheduled out for a few years is rare.

Between Beautiful and Moulin Rouge, I didn’t do anything. It was almost four years of nothing so there’s always a bit of imposter syndrome in this business because there’s no upper mobility. Your last gig is your last gig and your career trajectory is not a steady climb; it’s always a sort of up-and-down thing.

When I was living in New York, there’s the cliché of being a waiter/actor. That’s something I did for a while because it’s a job you can float in and out of. I did temp work, I worked as a night doorman, I worked catering, conventions; it’s a consistent grind. But the trade-off is that I get to do what I love; I trade the security for the joy.

It still sounds like an extremely difficult gig. What do you do to take care of yourself?

We are really lucky, especially with this company — they give us a mental-health stipend. We have an HR team; we have an EDI team. So there’s a lot of different aspects to this producing team and general management team.

But being on the road is hard, it’s consistent change. We do eight shows a week and we work holidays because those are the busy times. So you’re consistently busy and moving and traveling; you miss out on a lot of things.

I’m lucky that my fiancé is on tour with me and I have my cat. I have forgone flights so we take drives. I have access to an Airbnb instead of a hotel and I cook instead of having to constantly eat out. So as much as I can make this like a real life, and create a consistent state of hominess, that’s what I’ve needed to maintain my mental health.

Tell me about the character you play, the Duke of Monroth.

It’s really fun for me; I’ve never really gotten to be the bad guy before so this is a fun turn. 

Whenever we talk about the duke, we discuss the idea that he’s not really a villain. He has some negative aspects, like the first line he sings is, “I got money, that’s what I want.” His motivation is about owning things. He’s drawn in by Zigler who wants to find someone who will take care of Satine. But my character has his own ulterior motives, like trying to own Zigler’s club and everyone in it.

He’s a blast to play. When I auditioned, it’s the role I was angling for. There’s such a fun aspect of trying to push the audience and getting them to question who to root for.

The cast of the North American Tour of Moulin Rouge! The Musical (photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)

What’s your favorite part of the show?

The technical aspects of the show are really, really incredible. The lighting, the costumers, the set. As an actor, I think a lot of playing a character can be helped when you get to come in and put on this amazing costume. Also, my entrance is the coolest entrance I’ve ever gotten. It makes my job easier.

It’s won 10 Tonys for a reason. They’ve spared no expense to really make this an experience.

Then there’s the music. There are 70-plus top songs, especially for Millennials, a lot of them are in my wheelhouse from Fun to Britney Spears to Katy Perry. But there’s also older stuff like Nat King Cole and I get to sing a Rolling Stones medley. The music makes me smile and it spans 100 years. There’s a plethora of music and genres and eras. So it’s an experience for us that is as fun as it is for the audience.

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