Tanisha Spring on playing Satine in 'Moulin Rouge!' in the West End

Tanisha Spring, who dazzles as Moulin Rouge dancer Satine in the hit West End show, talks about the importance of alternates in theatre and her dream role.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

Tanisha Spring worked in the corporate world before she set her sights on the West End. “My analytical brain loved [being an accountant], but my body hated it and I kept falling asleep,” she says. Since making that decision, she has been cast in a number of shows, including Groundhog Day, The Prince of Egypt, Caroline, or Change, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, and Moulin Rouge!, in which she currently stars as the courtesan Satine.

London Theatre Magazine spoke with Spring about why alternates are so important in the industry and why her dream role hasn’t been written yet.

Before landing the role of Satine, you played her alternate. Why are alternates so important in theatre?

I loved being an alternate, I loved the all or nothing aspect. It was just after Covid, so I had picked up a production course and I was learning Japanese, and it meant I had the time to do that, as well as do a great show. I wouldn’t ever become an alternate with the hope of taking over. We sometimes put leads on a pedestal unnecessarily, because it takes a whole army to make a show work. It diminishes the roles of alternates, swings, and covers, who, at the drop of a hat, will have to go on. Eight shows is so hard, and as an alternate, I loved the fact that I did a couple of [performances as Satine] a week and I had a fresh voice.

How have you approached the character?

When the show came out, I didn’t audition the first time round because I didn’t feel there was going to be a place for me in the show. Thankfully I was very wrong. The creative team hasn’t tried to make any of us carbon copies of Nicole Kidman, or even each other, because we’re all very different women. I was the first dark-skinned woman to play Satine, and dark-skinned women often aren’t spoken about [in the way] Satine is [described] throughout the musical. For somebody at that time to get to where she was, it would have been a graft. I wanted to honour that because it would reflect in her personality and inform parts of her personality.

Do you have a dream theatre role?

I don’t think she’s been written yet. I’ve been lucky enough to open new shows, and I love the creation of a new role. Solving problems is my favourite part of scripts or scenes. It does mean that I have no idea what I will do next.

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Photo credit: Tanisha Spring in Moulin Rouge! (Photo courtesy of production)

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