The Truth About Sutton Foster's Relationship With Hugh Jackman

Sutton Foster has graced both the small screen and Broadway stage. Now, she is sharing the stage with X-Men alum and Broadway legend Hugh Jackman in the revival of the classic musical "The Music Man," a gig that has earned her a nomination for her seventh Tony award. Foster plays librarian Marian Paroo opposite Hugh Jackman's Harold Hill, who end up as lovers in the show. (In the original production, Robert Preston earned a Tony in the role of Hill, and went on to star in the film version as well.)

But the co-stars have formed a mutual respect and friendship since tackling the show amid the ups-and-downs that have accompanied their unique experience navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Performing eight times a week is never easy, and managing the uncertainty of the pandemic through it all only made the task more daunting. But through it all, the "Younger" alum and Australian film star have formed an iconic friendship that radiates off the stage into their real lives.

An onstage affair

Sutton Foster became friends with Hugh Jackman as a result of her role in the Broadway revival of "The Music Man," she told People. "The best thing that's happened out of this whole thing is that I've made a new friend, which you never anticipate," Foster said of Hugh Jackman, her onstage romancer and real-life co-star. In the show, Jackman plays the traveling conman Harold Hill, who travels to the small Iowa town of River City to dupe townspeople into buying instruments with no intention of teaching anyone how to play music. 

Foster takes the part of Marian Paroo, the uptight town librarian who sees through Hill's con yet falls for him so that more drama, comedy, and singing antics can ensue. Making friends into adulthood can be daunting, but the revival offered a welcome opportunity for Foster to expand her circle. "We always joke that after 40, you don't really make new friends!" she told People. "[Hugh's] a dream and so kind and talented and is even more generous. He's pretty fantastic. We're having a really remarkable time — the whole company."

Keeping the faith

The revival of "The Music Man" came at a troubled time for the Broadway community. The production was announced back in March 2019 with performances initially scheduled to begin in September 2020 (according to Playbill). In June 2020, the performances were delayed to May 2021. But the ongoing shutdown kept the doors of Broadway closed. Finally, previews for the revival of "The Music Man" began in December 2021, and the show premiered to full audiences in February 2022 (as reported by Playbill). 

But throughout the turmoil, the stars held out hope that they would grace the stage together. Hugh Jackman told People that he "never doubted" that Broadway would get back to its bright lights and full theaters. Nonetheless, he didn't get the chance to share every show with his co-star Sutton Foster due to COVID-19. In a post-show speech during the musical's December previews, Jackman gave a shout-out to Marian Puroo understudy Kathy Voytko, who had her first rehearsal for the part the very day of her performance.

Sutton Foster is a dancing queen

Sutton Foster is known in show business as a "triple threat": an actor, singer, and dancer. Though Hugh Jackman falls into the same category, with proof on both the screen and stage, he said that Foster and "The Music Man" choreographer Warren Carlyle kept him on his toes (according to People). While performing for audiences was out of the question during much of the pandemic, Jackman stayed motivated due to Carlyle's dance rehearsals, which would occur "three to four times a week," he told People.

Foster seems to be a daunting opponent for any dance battle, even one including "The Greatest Showman" himself. And though he showed his moves in the 2017 movie musical, he had more practicing to do before getting comfortable dancing on Sutton Foster's level. "For a year and a half, we were dancing," Jackman told People. "Listen. I have to dance every night against Sutton Foster. I better be bringing it!"

The two have a pre-show ritual

The most exciting thing about live theater is that no show is exactly the same twice. But some routines never change. In an interview with Stephen Colbert (posted on YouTube), Foster explained how she and Jackman have maintained a pre-show ritual they perform before they hit the stage. "[Hugh] comes to visit my dressing room and we have a 'carpet chat,'" Foster told Colbert. "I have things to actually sit on, but for some reason we both end up on the floor." 

The friends' "carpet chat" is a chance for the pair to rejuvenate with "coffee and smoothies" before the show and catch up. They even joked about making a podcast based on their pre-show ritual. "And we thought we should start a podcast called 'Carpet Chat with Hugh and Sutton.' That's not very exciting, but maybe tune in and you might learn something," she told Colbert.

The two share tips for surviving their repetitive Broadway schedules

Eight shows a week. That's a lot of singing, dancing, and acting for anyone, even Tony-award winners and seasoned pros. As such, Foster and Jackman have put their heads together to come up with some ways to take care of their minds and bodies amidst their taxing jobs. "I avoid that big marquee with our names on it as much as possible," Foster told Backstage.

"You've got to go out there, obviously knowing everything that's going to happen in every line, but pretending you don't, as in life," Jackman told Backstage in the same interview. By treating every show as their first, the two make sure they're at the top of their games. "That makes it feel alive," Jackman continued. "When you're with other actors who are in that same contract of: All right, let's see what's really happening, now, in the present. It takes courage."