Meet the liners and replacements who save Broadway
The music man recently impressed the world when he took a moment to recognize a special musical woman.
During the encore of “The Music Man” on Broadway, star Hugh Jackman brought Kathy Voytko, waiting for her absent co-star Sutton Foster, to the front of the Winter Garden Theater and sang his praises. Foster had come out with a positive COVID-19 test result, and Voytko stepped in at the very last minute to take charge of the librarian.
âKathy, when she got to work at noon, could have played any of the eight roles,â Jackman said during the preview performance. “And at 1pm she had her very first rehearsal as Marian Paroo.”
He added in a clip that exploded online: “The swings [who cover several ensemble roles, or âtracksâ], the liners, they are the foundation of Broadway.
This has always been true for the grueling world of the stage all year round, but never more so than it is now. Last month on Broadway, little slips of paper indicating actor replacements fell from the Playbills like confetti in Times Square on New Years Eve.
Liners, holds and last-minute emergency replacements are the glue that keeps Broadway from crumbling during Omicron Wave – ‘The Music Man’ performances are on hold until Wednesday after Jackman tested positive for COVID-19 last week – and with frequent testing required in plays and musicals in Midtown.
Stories like Voytko’s reverberate around Shubert Alley every day. For example, last Thursday at “The Lion King,” one of the actors who plays Young Simba stepped in to take on the role of Young Nala with a script in hand (although he didn’t need to use it. ).
The swings take on roles they never thought they would play, actors who left the shows years ago are brought back into the fray, and actors from other staging are sent to New York to any time.
Here are some of the actors who are working hard to keep Broadway alive this winter.
Marika Aubrey – “Come from afar”
Marika Aubrey was unwrapping Christmas presents at her New York home when she got a call at 9:30 p.m.
It was by Danny Goldstein, the associate director of “Come From Away”, the musical in which the actress plays pilot Beverley Bass on tour.
âHe said, ‘Hey? Are you still in New York? Aubrey, 40, told the Post. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m here until the day after tomorrow.’ “
An elated Goldstein replied, “We need a Bev.”
She arrived at the Schoenfeld Theater on West 45th Street at 11 a.m. the next day, took a COVID test and met much of the ensemble she would be performing with that night for the first time.
âThey didn’t know I was coming,â she said. âThey were sitting there doing the math to figure out how the show would go because they knew they didn’t have a Bev. Then when I walked in the dance captain said âOh! “”
With so many absences, there was a lot of math to be done.
âWe had four standbys who were on tracks they never do; we had two people from previous companies who hadn’t done the show in years and had just been called after me on their Christmas vacation with their kids, âshe said. “It was a real mishmash of people who had never worked together before.”
With hours remaining, the wardrobe department dug up all the costumes they could find. “This vest is doing quite well!” she remembered someone who said. At 2 p.m., she made her Broadway debut.
âIt was exciting,â she said. “Like we’re 16 and we have to keep the curtain up.”
Aubrey did seven shows in four days, before COVID postponed production until Friday. Soon she will be back on the road with the tour.
But, she adds, “It was a nice little Christmas present for me.”
Alex Weisman – “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”
Five days before Alex Weisman had his last performance in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the scenic epic that continues the story of JK Rowling’s books, Broadway closed on March 12, 2020.
“I had made 800 performances of the two-part piece from the original company’s first rehearsal. [in 2018] until closing, âWeisman, 34, told The Post. “I didn’t get my final salvation.”
Then, on December 17th, Hogwarts rang again.
“I have a ‘What is he doing?’ phone call, âthe actor said. A conversation with his agents led him to return to the game as a swing for COVID-related absences 10 days later.
In November, âCursed Childâ returned in a one-part revised version, so Weisman had to adapt.
During a video chat with director Rachel Sterner and movement captain Chelsey Arce, the actor was told of a flurry of new in and out, cut scenes and new choreography.
âI learned this on FaceTime, and when I got to my [in-person] repetition, I just did it, âhe said.
Last week, the actor made five performances overall over three days and is at the theater every day of the show on hold.
âIt was hell on my body,â he said. âIt’s a real training. And it took me until the third performance for my adrenaline and heart rate to catch up with my brain. I haven’t slept for five days.
But, he adds, “stressful as it is, there is a beautiful catharsis for my own journey to find its closure.”
Jeff Kready – “Company”
As Jeff Kready watched his wife Nikki RenÃ©e Daniels on stage as Jenny on the opening night of the “Company” musical, he had no idea he would join her a few weeks later.
âIt wasn’t on my radar at all,â said Kready, 39. “I thought it was a wonderful production, but of course my wife was the best.”
A week and a half later, after a performance was canceled due to an illness unrelated to COVID, the producers decided to step up the cast. Kready was asked to be an understudy the next morning.
âMy first thought was, ‘No! I could never do this job! ‘ “Kready said.” Covering 10 roles on a Sondheim show? That’s an absurd amount of work.
But the opportunity to be back on Broadway after a year and a half and do a show with his wife for the first time since they met in 2006 in “Les Miserables” proved too tempting to resist.
He officially starts lining up next week, but is ready to be called up anytime.
In Sondheim’s musical with notoriously delicate harmonies and lyrics, Kready worked hard to learn all the male roles, and he calls it “highly, hardest job I’ve ever had”. While still absorbing his many roles, Daniels rehearses to play the lead role, Bobbie, in case star Katrina Lenk and others are absent.
The rehearsals were not traditional. Kready trained with the London associate director on Zoom and had large empty rooms to himself when the creatives were sidelined.
âI see it as a challenge that I want to take on,â he said, âwhen everyone is killing each other to bring back Broadway and the arts.â
Kready is excited. There is, however, one role he hopes to play more than any other.
âDavid, who is my wife’s husband on stage,â he said. “I think the first time we can continue together and play opposite each other as husband and wife will be a very special time.”