After 18 months of the Broadway shutdown, the curtains have risen once again, marking New York City’s resurgence after being the epicenter of the pandemic. But the lights didn’t return to the Main Stem with the flick of a switch. For weeks prior, theatremakers dove back into the rehearsal room, revisiting their scripts and reconditioning themselves for the demands of eight-show weeks—returning to former practices yet fundamentally changed.
For photographer and Moulin Rouge! performer Benjamin Rivera, those critical weeks were also filled with hope, giving him the chance to reunite with his art, his colleagues, and his livelihood with renewed vigor.
"Returning to Broadway has been more than I ever dreamt it would be, and that's not to say it didn't come without a few growing pains. I had to work so hard during the pandemic to find peace without this job that I've been chasing my entire life—especially when we kept getting updates that our start date was getting pushed back again and again,” Rivera explained. “To return to that studio and see the faces of fellow castmates, stage managers, and the creative team felt like a breath of fresh air. We all reentered that space slightly differently than we left it, but for me, I felt like my love for these familiar faces grew more than I realized. It made me even more excited to get back up on that stage all together.”
“So we were back [in rehearsal], full steam ahead. We were discovering all over again what our bodies/voices needed as well as how to navigate this crazy virus and these masks. We pretty quickly found our pace, and I think we created a new version of this show.”
“With all the excitement of reopening also came the excitement of new cast mates, seeing our theatre again for the first time, putting on costumes from 18 months ago and praying they still fit, and prepping for the Tonys. It was a whirlwind that led to an opening night audience unlike any audience I've ever had the honor to perform for. I really loved being a performer before the pandemic hit, and I find myself even deeper in love now. I have a heart full of gratitude to be back up onstage at the Moulin Rouge!"
Moulin Rouge! officially reopened at the Al Hirshfeld Theatre September 24 and two days later, the musical earned 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. While preparing for the musical's return, Rivera gave Playbill an exclusive photographic look at his journey from rehearsal to reopening.