It might be tempting for anyone looking at her credits to think of Sutton Foster as some kind of stereotypical ingenue of musical theater.
After all, after starting on Broadway at an early age, she managed to win the ingenue leads in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Little Women,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Shrek, The Musical” and “Young Frankenstein”—and win critical acclaim and a slew of awards for her performances.
But Ms. Foster is quite a bit more than the sum of her parts, as theatergoers lucky enough to snag a ticket to her show on Saturday at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor will no doubt be delighted to find out for themselves. In addition to some of her favorite numbers from shows she has done on Broadway, “An Evening with Sutton Foster” will include folk, jazz, musical theater standards and additional selections from her new CD, “Wish.”
And, when the performance portion of the show has concluded, Ms. Foster will reveal more of her many dimensions, joining premium ticket holders at a special after-party event on stage.
As she acknowledged in an e-mail this week, “It’s great to do an evening like this that shows audiences me as a person versus me as a character ... It’s a lot more exposed, but it’s my own expression as an artist.”
Working with music director Michael Rafter, whom she met when she was doing “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in 2001, Ms. Foster, with some writing and directing assistance from Mark Waldrop, put together her first solo show in 2004 as part of the Lincoln Center American Songbook series in New York.
Since that first effort, the three have worked together on creating shows for Joe’s Pub, Feinstein’s and another Lincoln Center show in February that coincided with the release of “Wish.” Her current tour, which has already stopped at more than 10 different cities and includes dates booked through next February, was organized to support the new album, and Ms. Foster has been enjoying every minute.
“It’s been amazing,” she wrote, “to travel and perform this show.”
Part of the fun of doing the show has come from revisiting roles that established her gilt-edged actor-singer-dancer credentials.
“It’s pretty great to revisit a lot of the songs and moments that I had on Broadway, especially characters that I’ll probably never get a chance to play again ... like Millie or Jo from ‘Little Women,’” she wrote, adding that all the characters are getting a little more Sutton Foster than they might have had during the run of the shows. “I am definitely personalizing the songs more in the concert,” she wrote, “bringing more of myself to the foreground, as opposed to jumping from character to character.”
Not that there is anything lacking in the characters she has brought to life on the Broadway stage. She won the 2002 Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Astaire awards for her work in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and has been nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her other leads as well, winning the Outer Critics Circle for her portrayal of Princess Fiona in “Shrek: The Musical.”
The reviews for “An Evening with Sutton Foster” and the “Wish” album have been uniformly positive. The show was described by one critic as “charged with emotion and excitement,” and Stephen Holden of The New York Times noted that her songs incorporate “themes of wishfulness, of throwing off cares and dreaming the future into becoming the present.”
She got started on her path to Broadway in a ballet class when she was 4. After moving on to jazz and tap dancing and a role in a community production of “Annie!” as a youngster, she went on, seven years later, to win a slot as the youngest member of the ensemble in “The Will Rogers Follies” on Broadway after answering a dancers call and making it past a callback in New York in front of Tommy Tune and Southampton’s Cy Coleman.
Asked what she would say to a young person who aspires to a Broadway career today, Ms. Foster bluntly cut to the chase in her e-mail: “My first advice is ‘don’t be an asshole.’ Kindness and respect go a long way in this business or any business. I also say, ‘take opportunities ... say
... get hands-on experience ... whether it’s performing, or backstage, or interning, or painting a set. And theatre is
... Go out and get experience wherever you can!’”
“An Evening with Sutton Foster” will be presented for one night only on Saturday, May 29, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $75; premium tickets for the show and post-performance reception with Ms. Foster are $125. For ticket information, call the Bay Street box office at 725-9500, visit baystreet.org, or visit the theater on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.
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