Emerging from the practice rooms of the Conservatory of Music at Capital University, Andrew Graham ’97 has transitioned to the grand stages of theaters across the nation, solidifying his passion for music and Broadway. His role as music director behind the magic of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” reflects not only his exceptional talent, but also his commitment to elevating the world of live performance.
“When I was at Capital, I saw a lot of shows at the Palace Theatre. I tried to take advantage of Columbus as much as possible because where I grew up, there was just nothing to do. Columbus always seemed like such a big city in my eyes,” said Graham. “Growing up, my parents used to take me to Columbus to see the shows that came through. I also went to Cincinnati with a good friend, and we would see opera. I always liked theater; I always enjoyed the collaborative process of theater.”
After graduating with a degree in keyboard pedagogy and piano performance, Graham moved to London for about a year, where he was able to experience the West End and see a lot of theater. “As a student, I could see pretty much every show for $20,” said Graham.
“I ended up in New York, which, at that time, is where you needed to be. I don’t live in New York anymore, but at the time, it’s the only place I wanted to live. It was absolutely the right decision,” said Graham.
“When I was there, I joined the BMI [Lehman Engel] Musical Theatre Workshop, which was a writer’s workshop that cultivates new theater composers and lyricists. Through that, I met a lot of great people, like Bobby Lopez, who wrote ‘Avenue Q,’ ‘The Book of Mormon,’ and ‘Frozen.’ We can blame him for ‘Let it Go.’ He was in the workshop with me, and I ended up working on ‘Avenue Q’ in a roundabout way through the connections that I met in the workshop.”
Since his first time as a paid music director for the Galveston Island Outdoor Musicals in 1999, Graham has always made a living with music. It’s a longstanding career that he’s really grateful for. Like most theater professionals, he was greatly impacted by COVID-19.
“I was doing the ’Book of Mormon‘ tour, and we were in Boston where the show [‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’] was trying out. I knew the music director from ‘Avenue Q’ because he used to sub for me. I got tickets, and the show was amazing. I texted him right after and said, ‘If you ever want someone to take this on the road, I’m in.’
“Then a year and a half later, he called and asked, ‘Were you serious about that?’” said Graham. “We were supposed to start rehearsals in October of 2020, and we didn’t end up starting rehearsals until January 2022. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without working. I ended up teaching a little bit of piano during that time – finally got to put my piano degree to use!”
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” is a stage adaptation of the 2001 film “Moulin Rouge!” The musical retains the film's story, which is set in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. It revolves around the romance between Christian, a young poet, and Satine, a beautiful cabaret actress and courtesan. The narrative is infused with anachronistic pop and rock songs from various decades, creating a musical mashup that includes hits from Elton John, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and more. At the 74th Tony Awards, the musical scored 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. With a stop scheduled for Columbus, Ohio, in January 2024, Graham will be bringing the beloved musical to the stage he often visited as a student at Capital.
“When I did ‘Music Man,’ it was the first time I ever played Columbus on tour. I was very excited because that’s where I saw every show growing up,” Graham said. “This will be like my sixth time I’ve played Columbus, but I always get chills. I’ve been to so many theaters across America, but it’s still such an incredibly beautiful historic theater. I love to see the cast walk on stage during sound check and just be blown away. I’m always really proud of Columbus and the Ohio Theatre.”
Capital University’s Office of Alumni Engagement will host an event with Graham in early January. Please follow us on social media for updated event information.