“[A swing] covers up to 10 roles. Kathy, when she turned up for work at 12 o’clock, could’ve played any of eight roles,” Jackman, 53, explained to the Music Man audience at New York City’s Winter Garden Theater during curtain call on Thursday, December 23.
In the video, shared via Instagram by actress Katherine Winter, the Greatest Showman star explains that swing Kathy Voytko found out that the Younger star, 46, tested positive for COVID-19 just hours before going on in the leading lady’s role. The show hasn’t even officially opened, with that night’s performance being only the fourth preview.
“She found out at 12 noon today, and at 1 o’clock, she had her very first rehearsal as Marian Paroo,” Jackman said.
Jackman had the understudies and swings in the cast step forward for a round of applause.
“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,” the Australia native explained. “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!’”
Understudies and swings are more important than ever in the Broadway community as theaters try to keep their doors open amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. Some productions have to cancel performances when too many actors test positive, but in many cases, someone on standby will take over the role.
“It’s not only happening here at the Winter Garden, it’s happening all over Broadway. This is a time we’ve never known,” Jackman explained.
The actor, who plays Professor Harold Hill, was overcome with emotion as he praised his Music Man costars. “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 said.
The actor, famous for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies, threw up his hands into a claw-like gesture as he joked, “Take it from me: real superheroes do not wear capes!”
Since sharing the video, it has been viewed over 1.48 million times, and Voytko told Instagram followers that Jackman “is a class act” for giving her the spotlight.
“Friends, I’m overwhelmed by your kind words. We are wildly finishing Xmas prep and I just wanted to say THANK YOU!” Voytko shared on December 24. Foster, for her part, responded by commenting with hearts, raised hands and clapping emojis.