Broadway’s swings, or understudies, have always deserved to make more money and gain more recognition, but especially this year. COVID has been knocking out performers left and right and causing shows to be put on pause or shut down altogether. Today, Hugh Jackman took to Twitter to announce that he tested positive for the virus and will be quarantining and taking a break from his role in The Music Man, which is showing at New York’s Winter Garden Theatre. In the post, a face-masked Jackman told fans that his symptoms are that of a “cold” and a “scratchy throat, and a bit of a runny nose.” Other than that, the actor says he is feeling “fine” and is “just gonna do everything I can to get better ASAP.” Jackman also assured viewers that he would be “back on stage, heading to River City” as soon as he was able.
The Music Man has had its fair share of COVID setbacks as Jackman’s co-star, Sutton Foster, recently tested positive for the virus as well. Currently in its opening preview showings, the musical made moves to cancel both its Christmas Day show as well as the following day’s matinee performance. Picking up for Foster was understudy Kathy Voytko, who quickly stepped into the role and as Foster said, “smashed it.”
During the curtain call following Voytko’s performance on Thursday, December 23, Jackman stepped forward to give a heartfelt speech metaphorically raising a glass to the often-overlooked swings. He mentioned that these performers “watch from the corner of the 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 our performances they’re told, ‘You’re on.’” He went on to explain to that night’s packed audience that when Voytko got the call, she could have been performing any of eight roles in the show and was expected to know each one.
The Music Man follows the story of Harold Hill (Jackman), a con artist who travels to a town called River City and attempts to bamboozle the townspeople into purchasing band uniforms and instruments from him after he suggests the citizens start a band. Planning to scram after the money is handed over, his plans change when he starts to fall for the town’s librarian, Marian Paroo (Foster), who is suspicious of Hill’s intentions from the get-go. With both Jackman and Foster quarantining and the virus making its way through the cast, performances of The Music Man will be put on hold with a hopeful comeback date of January 2.
Jackman rounded out his Twitter announcement by telling his fans to “stay safe, be healthy, be kind” before signing off. While we don’t know when Jackman will be able to return to the show, we know that his understudy will be greatly appreciated should the musical pick up performances on January 2. We here at Collider are wishing Jackman, Foster, and all other affected cast members a speedy and full recovery. Check out Jackman’s full Twitter announcement below.
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