Broadway Veteran Steps In at the Last Minute to Save Performance

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March 20, 2022

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(NEW YORK) — It was the day before Christmas Eve, and performer Kathy Voytko was in an 11 a.m. scheduled costume fitting for the Broadway production of “The Music Man” starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. Voytko is the understudy to Foster, who plays one of the title roles, Marian Paroo. 

While in the fitting, the costume designer told Voytko to call the show’s stage manager. She found out that Foster tested positive for COVID-19 and would not perform that evening. The show had only just finished its third preview performance the night before, and Voytko would be going on as the starring role opposite Hugh Jackman just a few hours later.

Being an understudy, or “swing,” for a Broadway show or any musical can be an intimidating and nerve-racking job in the industry. You have to blend seamlessly into a production that’s already been rehearsed and expected to perform at your best at a moment’s notice. You need to know your ensemble part and learn other roles within the show, as well. For Voytko, she covers the lead character of the show. One might compare it to being a backup quarterback for the NFL and being called in during the middle of a game. 

“I just grabbed my rehearsal skirt, show shoes, a mic, and we just ran everything,” Voytko said.

“We ran some things twice, but mostly once. I think “Marian the Librarian” we did two and a half times because the “book-ography” (choreography that involves a book) I had never done it on my feet — I’d only done it in my kitchen by myself.”

The costume department had not even finished sewing all of Voytko’s costumes before the show. Voytko said she wore one of her other ensemble costumes for the first act and one of Foster’s for the second. 

“I ended up having a bit of fun that night,” Voytko said. “Some of it was absolute blind terror, and some of it was actually fun.”

After the performance was over, Hugh Jackman took the time to praise Voytko’s performance and her ability to step into such a massive part with only a few hours’ notice. In a now-viral video, Jackman also acknowledged the other swings who went on that evening, calling them the “Bedrock of Broadway.”

In an interview with The Click, Jackman continued his praise for Voytko. 

“You can tell she has the experience and that she’s done this a bunch of times, and yet she has that enthusiasm of someone doing it for the first time,” Jackman said.

“I had such an admiration for her, and collectively you could feel the willingness to give her every bit of energy to succeed and also confidence knowing that she would. I don’t think I anticipated how well she would do. I don’t think she skipped a beat, and I don’t think she missed a line or a lyric. She was everywhere she was meant to be, he said.” 

“I was just so proud of her, and I was genuinely so moved by it all.”

Broadway’s Go-To Leading Lady 

Voytko is no stranger to the stage. She grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children. Voytko started taking ballet at a young age but said there weren’t many performing opportunities in her town. Though in high school, when her parents took her to see a production of “Les Miserables,” she realized that that’s what she wanted to do. After getting injured while practicing ballet, she discovered that she loved to sing.

[Credit: Justin Patterson]

Voytko auditioned and got into the Shenandoah Conservatory, where she majored in musical theater. While in school, she did summer stock theater and found it a big inspiration to have the opportunity to watch professional actors work on their craft. She later went on to perform for various regional theaters and ended up spending three years working on shows in Chicago. 

When she auditioned for “The Phantom of the Opera” tour, she got a callback at the Majestic Theater in NYC. Voytko landed the title role of Christine as an understudy and toured for three years — a major break. She also went on to play another leading part in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” as Eva Peron.

[Courtesy of Kathy Voytko]

Her first Broadway opportunity came when she landed a role in Trevor Nunn’s production of “Oklahoma!” Voytko has gone on to compile an impressive resume on Broadway, performing in “Nine,” “The Frogs,” “The Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Next to Normal,” “The Pirate Queen,” and “Tuck Everlasting.”

While performing on tour in “Phantom of the Opera,” Voytko met her now-husband John Cudia. Cudia was the understudy to Raoul. The pair have two children together. 

[Courtesy of Kathy Voytko]

“We say yes to things that are scary,” Voytko said when asked about having a partner who is also in the arts. 

Voytko has maintained this philosophy throughout her time in the performing arts industry. Her willingness to step up to the roles presented to her is what makes her a go-to Broadway veteran.  Voytko says she and her husband love what they do, and their children mean the most to them. She hopes to lead by example for them and hopes that they will also find something they love. 

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