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COVID-19 has disrupted so much of daily life. For months, early in the pandemic, Broadway's bustling theaters became ghost towns and many actors and theater employees struggled to get by. Today, curtains once more rise on a wide variety of incredible dramatic performances in the heart of Manhattan. However, COVID is still a reality and logistical nightmare. When star Robert Joy from Girl From the North Country tested positive for the virus, an unsuspected understudy stepped in to save the show. Emmy-winner Anthony Edwards, of E.R. and Top Gun fame, took on the role of the narrator Mr. Walker for a truly memorable performance.
By his own account, Edwards was taking storm windows off his house in Connecticut when his wife, actress Mare Winningham, called him to say Joy would not be able to perform. Already low on performers due to case numbers, the show would have to be canceled. Their last hope was to ask Edwards to “read the book,” meaning to perform while reading lines rather than having them memorized. Edwards jumped at the opportunity to be part of the acclaimed show. He also cited concern for the disappointment of hundreds of Broadway fans who had bought tickets if the show was canceled.
Edwards drove the two hours into the city to join that night's performance. Commenters on the show's Instagram testify to his success, as did the loud applause he and the other cast members received. One commenter exclaimed, “You did an amazing job—so happy I was able to see this fantastic once-in-a-lifetime theater moment!” Winningham told her husband in a clip posted by North Country Broadway, “I am beyond impressed and proud. You're fearless and fun.” Edwards himself noted how hard swings and understudies work in theater, and how what is most important is that the show indeed must on.
Emmy-winner Anthony Edwards of E.R. fame stepped up to save a Broadway show from being canceled by taking on a surprise role.