Max Heitmann stuns as Baby Doll in Broadway tour of ‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’

In a world that celebrates truth, beauty, freedom and above all love, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is more than a musical, it is a state of mind filled with glitz and glamor.

Based on the 2001 Baz Luhrman film, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” opened on Broadway in 2019 with songs heard in the film blended with iconic pop tunes from the past 17 years. The story surrounds a young man who becomes infatuated with a singer at the Moulin Rouge club in Paris 1899.

At the 74th Tony Awards, the musical received a total of 14 nominations and won 10 awards, including Best Musical and Best Choreography.

For the North American Tour, Baby Doll is played by openly gay actor Max Heitmann, who just graduated from NYU and makes his Broadway tour debut with this show.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” plays to Florida audiences with stops at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, which began Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 18 before heading to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando Feb. 20-Mar. 3.

Heitmann was kind enough to speak with Watermark by phone ahead of the show’s Central Florida and Tampa Bay stops.

WATERMARK: This is your Broadway tour debut. How does it feel to land it with “Moulin Rouge! The Musical?”

Max Heitmann: Oh my gosh, it’s literally perfect. I just graduated college last year and booked this about a month after, so it was a really quick turnaround and I just feel so lucky. I think most of all, there’s such a family among the cast and the show is just so much fun. It’s an honor to be a part of something so big, so beautiful and that celebrates so many people. I’m really honored.

How are you feeling about bringing the show to Florida stages?

You know, I’m excited. I’m super excited to go to Florida. I have a few friends that live in Florida, so that’ll be really exciting to have people to kind of ground you. It can be a little hard out on tour but I’m also so excited just because we’ve been in the cold now for so long. I can’t wait to step into the Florida sun and get a nice tan. I think at this point you do it so often that it becomes kind of like a routine so I don’t feel as nervous as I do excited to just get there and show off our show. It’s super fun.

You play Baby Doll in the show. What are some of the things you look forward to when you get to play the character?

So Baby Doll is a Lady M. We open the show and I think that’s one of the most special moments in the show. Getting to kind of meet the audience right away and get that first perception of what they’re going to be like based on how that first beat drops and how we open with “Lady Marmalade,” which is such an iconic song for the show. We really get to meet them and that’s really exciting; it’s always fun. You can gauge if they’re going to be loud, excited and singing along, or if they’re going to be a little quieter and really tuned into the story. That’s fun to have that initial meeting with them. Baby Doll specifically is really fun because she’s kind of like this youthful naive flower. I like to think that she’s kind of blooming with all the grunge of the Moulin Rouge surrounding her. It’s really interesting to get to play that contrast. I just think I relate to Baby Doll so much. In regard to just taking in and learning everything from these people around me that are so much more experienced. I feel really connected to my role in that way, which is really beautiful.

How do you feel when you’re on stage playing her?

Oh my gosh, it’s just so liberating. I mean to be a gay person and to be able to play a character that makes me feel so sexy and empowered and to stand so fully in my gayness is really liberating and exciting. I think it’s really exciting to be a part of that, and with everybody that I’m in the show with too, everybody’s so empowering and so talented and inspiring. You just feel confident and uplifted by the audience and by your cast. It’s wonderful.

How would you describe “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” to the average person?

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is a jukebox musical, which essentially means that it uses pop songs, like modern day pop songs that you would hear on the radio. Which is already something that I think really works to get people who maybe aren’t as interested in musical theater specifically involved in the show. It’s fun to hear these songs. The story of “Moulin Rouge” is about the club Moulin Rouge in Paris in the 1890s starting to go under. Our leading lady, Satine, our sparkling diamond, gets kind of caught up in a love affair whilst trying to get funding for the club and so it’s about the navigation of this love triangle and trying to save this safe space that the dancers of Moulin Rouge have called home.

How would you say your background and education helped you prepare to land your role?

I mean just being in theater for my whole life helped me a lot because jumping right into a show, especially being a replacement, is really hard. There’s already so much going on. Everybody there already knows their tracks and what they’re doing so you have to be able to quickly pick up on where you go backstage, and where everybody goes, because you can’t run into people. You have to keep the tracks clear so that everybody can do their job and you have to be quick on your feet. You have to be adaptable if things change quickly, because sometimes set pieces won’t come out, or somebody can’t make it to their track because there’s an injury, anything can happen, and you have to be able to adapt. I think that getting the education and the experience that I did really prepared me for that and prepared me to be quick on my feet. It’s something that I’m very grateful that I was able to go through and to learn from.

Are there activities or maybe even traditions that the cast likes to do to make sure you put on the best show possible?

What’s great is that you’re just with these people every day, so you really do become a family. You really protect each other, and I can tell where my friends are at, where my castmates are at and you support them when they need it, and that’s beautiful. I think one of my favorite specific kind of like traditions or our everyday rituals is right before the opening, there’s like a pre-show going on and everybody’s kind of out on stage and the only people backstage are me and my fellow Lady M’s. What’s so beautiful about the Lady M’s is that we’ve created such a sisterhood and it’s such a special group to be a part of. I feel so safe with them and every day before we go on we have a circle up and see where we’re at. We connect with each other, support each other and just sit in this feeling of sisterhood. It’s really helpful right before we go and open the show, which can be really intimidating.

What are some of your favorite plays, especially some that you would hope to perform in?

Well I feel really lucky to be in “Moulin Rouge” because I personally am much more inclined to sing contemporary or pop music. I’ve always been really drawn to that kind of style. It’s fun to get to sing songs like Beyonce or Rihanna in a show because that’s what I would be doing if I was also at home. I think that’s something that’s special. I personally just love that kind of poppy, jukebox and contemporary style a lot.

What are some values that you would hope to gain from your time in the role?

I’m just learning so much. The biggest thing for me is honestly, how to be an adult working in the adult world, having adult relationships and navigating that. You learn so much from these people because you get so close to them. I think I’m just becoming a better performer by being like this sponge and soaking up everybody else’s experience and knowledge. I feel really lucky and privileged to be in a place with people to do that with.

The story of “Moulin Rouge” is a celebration of truth, beauty, freedom but above all it’s about love. How do you think this statement resonates with you, especially the work that you and your castmates are putting into the show?

That’s a great question! I think at the end of the day we all love the show, we love what we’re doing and we love each other. And I mean that so truthfully. I think that’s sometimes hard to find. It’s special that we all just have such a passion and a love for the art that we’re putting out every single night. I think that that’s what fuels us and keeps us going. I mean you can see the love when we’re on stage. That’s something that we get told a lot and that’s my favorite thing to hear is that you can see how much we all love each other and how much we all protect each other. I think that’s really special.

“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” plays at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa through Feb. 18 and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando Feb. 20-Mar. 3. Tickets start at $75 for the Tampa shows and are available at and tickets start at $50 for the Orlando shows and are available at

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