Though she's already a two-time Tony Award winner (for Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002 and for Anything Goes in 2011), she says she was unsure of herself when it came to The Music Man.
"It was a role that was a risk taking, and I honestly didn't know if I'd be able to pull it off. I'm really proud of myself and proud of the company. It really means a lot," she says.
In The Music Man, Paroo is typically played by a soprano. Academy Award winner Shirley Jones starred opposite Robert Preston in the 1962 film of the Meredith Willson musical. Foster had to have some keys lowered to better suit her voice.
"The best thing that's happened out of this whole thing is that I've made a new friend, which you never anticipate," she says, referring to her Tony-nominated costar Jackman, 53. "We always joke that after 40, you don't really make new friends! He'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."
She adds, "I think it's a combination of coming back after two years, and you just don't take one second for granted."
Throughout the pandemic — during which Jackman previously told PEOPLE he rehearsed three to four times a week with choreographer Warren Carlyle — Foster "had faith that [theater] wouldn't disappear forever," she explains.
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"I never in a million years thought that it would be non-existent. I just held on fast to my friends and my family [during COVID], but I also knew that theater is the backbone of New York City," she says.
"What's been amazing — especially right now with COVID — [is that] everyone has had to just rise to the occasion, and the company just celebrates every single person. We just take care of one another, and I think that's what the last two years have taught us, too, is that we just take care of each other in a different way. Every single night… It's been amazing."