Aaron Tveit and Karen Olivo in 'Moulin Rouge!' (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

When the Tony Award nominations were announced in October, “Moulin Rouge!” actor Aaron Tveit’s name stood alone. 

Tveit was the only actor nominated in the category of Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Christian. He’s poised to win the award, so long as 60% of Tony voters vote for him in the category.

It was an unusual event — a first for the ceremony — in an unusual time for Broadway. The industry is in the midst of its longest shutdown in history and productions remain closed through at least May 30, 2021. 

The Tony Awards itself has been postponed and a date for the digital ceremony has yet to be announced. 

Tveit has been working on film and television projects, while awaiting the return of live theater — a moment that he envisions as both joyous and necessary for personal and economic recovery from the pandemic. 

“Every day that’s passed that we haven’t been able to do what we do, we’ve realized how vital live theater and the Broadway community is to New York City and to our country,” Tveit said. 

Broadway News recently spoke with Tveit about his thoughts on the Tony nominations, recovering from COVID-19 and what he’s been up to during the shutdown.

Edited excerpts: 

Broadway News: What did you think when you saw you were the only person nominated in your category?

Aaron Tveit: It’s not something I thought or expected or had ever seen or heard before, but I was very happy that the Tonys committee decided to go ahead with the awards for this year. I think that the Tony Awards are a celebration of this community, and I felt it provided a bit of a lift for the whole community when they were announced. I hope that when the awards actually happen it’ll do the same thing and maybe we’ll be closer to a coming back date by that point. 

And then for me personally, I was just nothing but grateful. Despite the unique circumstances, I didn’t think of it any differently as if it were any other year. The Tonys are a mainstay, and I’ve had my own personal up-and-down experiences with them with shows before, so to me it just meant the absolute world. I felt nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the recognition, whatever the circumstances.

BN: We don’t yet have a date for the Tony Awards ceremony. How has the waiting period been?

Tveit: That’s been OK. Initially we heard it was maybe going to be the fall, but that was when Broadway was only closed through the end of [2020]. I understand that with the business side of it, they probably need to be tied into ticket sales. I do hope that when we are able to celebrate the awards, the shows can perform. We still have no idea what any of that is, so I understand that it’s probably a good idea to wait until there’s a more concrete date for the future and then try to tie that in. I firmly understand that, so I’ve been able to release the “when” of it a little bit. 

BN: What have you been doing during the shutdown? 

Tveit: I’ve been very fortunate. I got to shoot a Hallmark Christmas movie in July, which was one of the first things that was back working under all the new SAG protocols and agreements for COVID, and that was just a tremendous experience. I was also in Vancouver for almost three months working on a musical Apple series called “Schmigadoon!”, and so I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work a little bit during this time. 

I’m extremely lucky, but I’m acutely aware of our industry that’s kind of decimated and gone and how widespread and how far reaching it is beyond the people that everyone sees on stage. It’s something I’m aware of and think about every day, and I just hope we can get back to a more normal place very soon.

BN: What was it like working on those two projects with COVID-19 protocols in place? 

Tveit: It’s fascinating because there’s so many things that you have to do, and, of course, testing is primary. There was a quarantine protocol beforehand and then once you’re up and running, we were tested at least three times a week, and basically everyone is in all PPE possible except when the camera’s actually rolling. Once the cameras were rolling, I got to do something very normal.

What I took from it is that with planning and testing, and everyone taking responsibility for themselves and those around them, it can work. I think about those things in terms of the theater community. I think that when we do go back, at least for a while, we’re not going to be able to just go back to normal. I know that there are people way above my intelligence level putting those things together, but just from my own experience of working on a couple things, there is a comfort when everyone is following these protocols. There’s a comfort when you know the people around you working have been tested and are taking things seriously.

BN: Have you heard any updates on a return for “Moulin Rouge!”?

Tveit: Our producers and company leaders have been extremely vocal about for us it’s a “when,” not an “if,” which has been so wonderful to hear from day one. We don’t know when it’s going to be, but we do have a job to go back to, which is incredible. 

BN: You were one of the first Broadway actors to speak publicly about contracting COVID-19 in March. How are you doing now? 

Tveit: I think I’m well now. I don’t think I have any lingering health effects. I was extremely lucky the COVID that I had didn’t necessarily settle in my lungs. I had a cough, but I never was really short of breath, so I don’t think I got the full brunt of the lung version of it. But looking back I think I was much sicker than I realized. For about two weeks, I slept 12 or 13 hours a night and I was super lethargic. I lost my taste and smell for two weeks. 

Generally, I’m quite a private person, but at the time there was such confusion and not a lot of information about it, so I was coming forward to say this can happen to anyone.