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Grant Gustin and Isabelle McCalla to lead ‘Water for Elephants’ musical

The Broadway production finds its principal cast.

Grant Gustin and Isabelle McCalla (Credit: Courtesy of Polk & Co.)

Principal casting has been announced for the upcoming musical “Water for Elephants.” The previously reported production will begin previews on Feb. 24, 2024, ahead of an opening night of March 21 at the Imperial Theatre. The production, directed by Tony Award nominee Jessica Stone, is a transfer from the world premiere staging at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta.

Leading the cast will be Grant Gustin and Isabelle McCalla as Jacob Jankowski and Marlena, respectively. The cast will also feature four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman as Mr. Jankowski, Paul Alexander Nolan as August, Stan Brown as Camel, Joe De Paul as Walter, Sara Gettelfinger as Barbara and Wade McCollum as Wade. 

Additional casting, by Tara Rubin Casting, will be announced soon.

“Water for Elephants” will mark Gustin’s Broadway debut; he is best known for playing Barry Allen (the titular superhero) on television’s “The Flash.” Gustin was also featured in the series “Glee.” Onstage, Gustin appeared as Baby John in a tour of “West Side Story.” McCalla is currently starring as Maizy in the Tony Award-nominated musical “Shucked.” She made her Broadway debut as Jasmine in “Aladdin” and originated the role of Alyssa Greene in “The Prom.” McCalla created the part of Marlena in the Alliance Theatre production of “Water for Elephants.”

Edelman is a Broadway veteran with 14 Main Stem credits. He is a four-time Tony nominee for turns in “City of Angels,” “Anna Karenina,” “1776” and “Into the Woods.” Nolan was most recently seen as Hugh Dorsey in the Tony-winning revival of “Parade.” “Water for Elephants” will be Nolan’s 10th Broadway credit, having also starred in “Slave Play,” “Escape to Margaritaville,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Bright Star.”   

Brown, who will make his Broadway debut with “Water for Elephants,” has spent much of his career on-screen with credits such as “Modern Love” and “I’ll Fly Away.” De Paul has spent much of his career in the world of circus and clowning, having toured with numerous productions by Cirque du Soleil; he was a company member of the Alliance Theatre mounting of “Water for Elephants.” Gettelfinger last appeared on Broadway in “A Free Man of Color.” She also counts “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Nine,” “The Boys From Syracuse” and “Seussical” among her Main Stem credits. McCollum has appeared as an ensemblist, as Doctor Dillamond and the Wizard in Broadway’s “Wicked.”

“Water for Elephants” features a book by Tony winner Rick Elice and a score by Pigpen Theatre Co. 

Set in 1931, the musical begins when Jacob Jankowski hops aboard a train that happens to be a traveling circus. When the ringmaster brings on an elephant as the new star attraction, Jacob must train her alongside the ringmaster’s wife, Marlena. Sparks fly and the entire circus might be at risk.

“Water for Elephants” is being produced by Peter Schneider, Jennifer Costello, Grove Entertainment, Frank Marshall, Isaac Robert Hurwitz and Seth A. Goldstein.