Hugh Jackman praises Music Man actress who stepped into lead role at last moment
Thanks to the talent of Broadway swings, there was no trouble in River City on Thursday night. When leading lady Sutton Foster bowed out of The Music Man's fourth preview performance, fellow actor Kathy Voytko stepped up to the plate — with fewer than eight hours notice to prepare.
And during the cast bows, Hugh Jackman made sure that didn't go unnoticed.
In a video captured by actress Katherine Winter and posted to Facebook, Jackman, who plays Professor Harold Hill in the revival, revealed that Voytko found out she would be taking on the lead role of Marian Paroo at noon and had her very first rehearsal at 1 p.m. that same day.
"It's not only happening here at the Winter Garden, it's happening all over Broadway. This is a time we've never known," continued Jackman, referencing the many closings and pauses of shows thanks to the Omicron variant. "This is a time we've never known. We're in our fourth preview, we're all just sort of learning, so swings and understudies have not had a chance to learn."
Foster, who posted a note to her Instagram Story on Friday explaining that she had tested positive for COVID-19, echoed Jackman's praise, saying that Voytko "smashed it."
As those who are deep in the theater world know, Broadway swings are a true treasure trove, generally learning at least six to eight different roles in a single production in order to be able to cover as many as possible. And Jackman noted that it's not as easy as just taking up someone else's part.
Calling all the swings to the front of the stage, Jackman explained in his speech, "they watch from the corner of a room while we rehearse, while we get to practice over and over again. They just get to watch and write notes and then five hours before the performance they're told, 'you're on by the way, you've got a wig fitting, go!'"
"So to all of these people here — the swings — and I'm emotional because it humbles me — their courage, their brilliance, their dedication, their talent. The swings, the understudies, they are the bedrock of Broadway," he concluded as the crowd cheered.
While thanking the crowd for opening their hearts to Voytko's performance and sharing in an "unprecedented night," Jackman made sure to end the performance with a bit of levity.
"Take it from me: real superheroes do not wear capes!" the X-Men actor joked, throwing up Wolverine claws.
Watch the video of Jackman's speech above.