There’s a new Lady Marmalade down at Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway. Jessica Lee Goldyn has cancanned her way into the Al Hirschfeld Theatre as Nini. The stage actress with big dance credits — including both Val and Cassie in A Chorus Line, Hello, Dolly!, and Finding Neverland — says it’s “the most high-energy role” she’s ever performed.
“It’s a beast,” Goldyn told Broadway Direct. “I went from two years of Netflix to a corset and ‘Roxanne.’ The first time I hit the stage was a whirlwind, but I was prepared. So I’m very grateful.”
Playing Nini in the Tony Award–winning musical feels “so sexy and so fun” after two years of dancing around in her apartment in sweats during the pandemic shutdown, Goldyn said. She’s taking over for Robyn Hurder, who originated the role. “[Nini’s] a fighter, and so it feels like a glove that fits so right and will continue to feel better and better as I keep doing it.”
Broadway Direct spoke with Goldyn about what it’s like to return to Broadway after the long pause.
How are you feeling after your first week in the show?
I was more emotional than I thought I’d be, coming out of a two-year pandemic not having been on stage. I got teary-eyed hearing the half-hour call. The rush was wild, being in front of an audience.
What has the experience been like for you?
A challenge in many ways. I’ve been teaching a lot, but I haven’t been dancing the way I usually do. Nini is the hardest dance role I’ve ever done. That’s a weird thing to say because I’ve done Cassie [in A Chorus Line]. I’ve done all these major triple-threat roles. There’s something about the partnering [dance steps] that puts it to a whole new level. Right out of the gate with “Lady Marmalade” and coming down those stairs, it’s zero to a thousand. It feels that way every time I’m on stage.
The team that put me into the show is fantastic. It’s a monster being a replacement in a rehearsal room by myself, having a team explain what’s happening around me, who’s holding me where, when the pyrotechnics are set off and where I’m supposed to be looking. I was a replacement in Finding Neverland. It’s a very difficult thing unless you’ve gone through it before, especially when you’re going into a well-oiled machine like in this show, with a lot of people who were a part of the original production.
What’s your favorite number?
I really love doing “Bad Romance.” I love the way that the number is structured. I love the way it starts. It has a very [Bob] Fosse feel to me. Simple movement, simple storytelling. It’s so sexy. It’s so hot. Then it goes into this full-blown dance number where everyone comes in around me. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Is this a role you ever envisioned for yourself?
I had auditioned for the original production. I’m just over the moon that this came along when it did and the stars aligned. [Director] Alex Timbers is a dream. I got to work with him on the Beetlejuice lab. So I was chomping at the bit to do anything that he was involved in. Also, triple-threat rolls like this don’t come along [that often], especially now. The fact that it’s a new triple-threat role created at this time and an age when I can still do a drag split is just awesome.
Tell me about having to sit on this casting news for two years.
I was actually cast to be in the tour, originally. That was a dream in itself. I was just so excited to play this role. I got that news two years ago. I kind of kept my psyche ready to cancan and my body as ready as I could.
When did you find out it would be Broadway instead?
It was made probably two months ago. I was prepared to go out on the road as of then. The stars kind of aligned so I was able to stay here in New York and be home.
Did Robyn Hurder give you any advice on the role?
She’s just such a dream. I bow to her for creating this. If she hadn’t done it the way she did it, I wouldn’t have this opportunity to do it the way that I do it. She said to try to remove all the bones from my corset, if I can.
What’s your recovery off stage like?
It’s a recuperation moment. I sit and zen out and drink Pedialyte. I probably have one a day to stay balanced. I am sweating so much. It replenishes all your electrolytes. The liquid version has milk and the powder version does not. Sometimes I drink the liquid and sometimes the powder.
Do you eat anything before the show?
Kind of, but it’s tough because we’re in corsets. I get to the theatre about two hours before the show. I eat as soon as I get there. I really like eggs. It absolutely has to be a protein. Sometimes I have a protein shake. I have protein bars at hand and sometimes I will do a little chicken with brown rice. Nothing crazy. Then I start my wig and makeup prep. That gives me enough time to digest so I still have enough energy throughout the show.
You danced a lot in your living room during the pandemic.
The pandemic, for so many of us, put stuff into perspective. It really made me realize how much I love to dance in front of an audience or wherever. I also really love passing it on. It feels like I got back to my roots. So any chance I had to dance, whether it was in my living room or teaching or in a studio, I said yes. It made me happy. It kept my body in shape. It also kept me sane, to continue to dance during that two-year period.
I remember when the pandemic started, you were about four performances into playing Cassie in A Chorus Line in Boca Raton, Florida. Would you go back to that?
I have a hard time saying no to that show. It’s very special to me. I would absolutely step into that. I feel like the older I get, and then the more life experience I have, I have more to say within it. And it’s different every time, and I just love dancing. It’s the most me that I’ve ever felt on stage.
If Charlotte d’Amboise can still do it…
We gotta get you in Chicago.
Don’t even get me started. That’s the dream. I joke about this all the time. I think I’ve auditioned for that show once a year since I’m 18 years old.
Once they see you in this role and owning the stage in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, that would be the next thing.
Let’s just keep putting it out into the universe.
Check out more photos from Jessica Lee Goldyn’s photoshoot here.
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