BWW Interview: Sutton Foster on Making Her Carnegie Hall Solo Debut, Self-Doubt & Starring in a 'Revamped' WILD PARTY at Encores!
Carnegie Hall will soon welcome a Two-time Tony winner to its stage.
On March 13, Broadway's beloved Sutton Foster will make her solo debut at the historic venue, where she'll perform alongside her VIOLET co-star Joshua Henry, Megan McGinnis, and the renowned New York Pops, lead by Steven Reineke.
In anticipation of the big night, Foster sat down with BroadwayWorld to offer up new details on the evening, starring in a "revamped" concert version of Andrew Lippa's musical THE WILD PARTY this summer for Encores!, her "gypsy" life-style, and returning to television in Darren Star's new TV Land comedy YOUNGER.
Adjusting to the Success of Sutton
Foster, who's transitioned from stage-to-screen and back again, is undoubtedly one of Broadway's brightest, putting out award-winning performance after award-winning performance. She's taken the stage opposite Joel Grey, Roger Bart, Andrea Martin, Gavin Creel (the list honestly goes on and on) - and Kelly Bishop and Hillary Duff on screen, performed at the Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, taken part in PBS' AMERICAN VOICES series, but has Sutton Foster, America's quirky stage sweetheart, really gotten used to being Sutton Foster?
Not entirely - but you try getting used to all of that.
On being asked if she's grown accustomed to her particular level of success, even after over a decade of working in professional theatre, Foster laughs it off. "You say that, and I'm like...wah?" Humbly, she continued: "It's hard for me to comprehend. I feel like I'm figuring a lot of stuff out. I'm at a really good point in my life, personally. I'm comfortable. Everything feels really good. I wake up every day and I'm like 'where's the drama?' but there is no drama. It's just nice. But I still just feel like I'm trying to figure everything out. I have my insecurities, my doubts, my issues and the things that I'm proud of - and the things I'm not proud of. I'm an incredibly flawed person. That's all I see."
It's difficult for the average theatre fan to watch the triple-threat sing and tap-dance her way through ANYTHING GOES' thrilling signature number on the Tonys and not forget that just because she has superhuman talents, doesn't mean she isn't still human.
(...and keep in mind this is only roughly half of the fully-staged version)
A Solo Debut at Carnegie
Accolades and acclaim aside, Foster readily admits she's still "very hung up on" the same all-too human emotions and troubles that gnaw at her fans. She remains "nervous, but so excited!" about the upcoming evening with the POPS, put together in several meetings with her musical director Michael Rafter and Reineke.
It's refreshing to hear a Tony Award winner be forthcoming with the fact that she's not always cool, calm and collected, as if backstage jitters and self-doubt suddenly leave a performer once they've been handed their Equity card.
"I really start to second guess everything!" she explained. "When you're putting a show like this together, you have to get to a point where you say: 'It is what it is! Let go and enjoy it.' I'm really trying to get to a clearer, calmer place about it at all."
The concert will boast some of Foster's greatest hits: numbers from ANYTHING GOES, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, VIOLET - as well as a few surprises that she's yet to perform on stage, including an unnamed tune from her childhood. She'll also offer up a rendition of 'Down with Love,' originally made famous by theatre goddesses Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.
Things for the evening are constantly changing, still "evolving," even as the night draws near - though her experience shouldn't fail her come show time.
"One of the songs we're performing is an arrangement we came up with 11 years ago," she said. Foster has been in the solo concert and cabaret game since 2004, shorty after her leading debut in 2002's 'MILLIE.' She stuns from coast to coast, taking on the songs she's made famous from musicals she's starred in - and those we wish she would.
"There are songs we've told from an array of different eras," she said. Foster and Henry toured the show last year, playing engagments in Washington, D.C. and Houston, with each performance growing upon the last, ultimately culminating with the New York edition.
Audience members will also be treated to something a little outside of the box - which they should come to expect at one her headlining events.
"I had this idea to do a song and dance routine with Joshua," she said. "We'd done VIOLET together, which is more dramatic, and we both dance, so we just decided we'd do a big old fashioned song-and-dance number together. So we worked and created it specifically for the show. It's just a really fun way to show a different side of ourselves."
Foster adds: "My name's on the poster, but it's about all of us. It's about every single person that's on that stage, and I feel like we're all just coming together."
Attending THE WILD PARTY
Since VIOLET, Foster and Henry have stuck close, hitting the road together for a series of headlining concerts. In Summer 2015, the pair will partner up with Encores! for a reworked production of Andrew Lippa's musical THE WILD PARTY. Theatregoers have been clamoring to get tickets - and Foster seems just as eager to take the stage.
"Oh my gosh, it's one of my top three favorite things I've ever seen in New York," she said. "I love it so much. When I was approached about doing it, I said: 'Oh, yes! Yes, that is awesome.' Which was immediately followed by the thought: 'Crap! What have I done?!'
After accepting her role, Foster also called up original 'WILD PARTY' cast member and good friend Julia Murney, telling her there was no conceivable way she could do it justice.
Adapted from Joseph Moncure March's Jazz Age poem, VIOLET helmer Leigh Silverman returns to direct the show, which tells "the story of one tragic, decadent night in a Manhattan apartment shared by Queenie and her menacing lover, and the handsome stranger who wants to lure her away," according to press notes. The original production opened in 2000 at Manhattan Theatre Club, where it ran for 54 performances.
"We're just in the very beginning stages of working on it, but I just hope that we can honor the show and the original company. I'm excited for more people to be able to see and hear it - it has such a killer score. Andrew has been doing a lot of work on it, and he's going back in and revamping it, retooling it for a concert."
Could the reworked 'PARTY' pack up and settle down for a Broadway run, the way of VIOLET? It's too early to say, but the summer run will, at the least, give Lippa's show and score the bigger reach it deserves, she said.
"What Encores! and Off-Center does is amazing," she said. "Like what it did for VIOLET. It gives audiences the chance to see shows that have these very cult followings, but maybe didn't have their day at the time."
Striving to be YOUNGER in 2015
ABC Family may have ended Foster's first foray into cable television, Amy Sherman-Palladino's quick-witted BUNHEADS, after a single season, but she's rebounded quickly.
Foster leads TV Land's new Darren Starr comedy YOUNGER, premiering March 31, opposite Hillary Duff, Miriam Shor and
Debi Mazar, about a newly-single woman who decides to abandon her actual age, and reinvent herself as a 26-year old in New York City.
Though it was a "huge amount of work, and the hours were insane," Foster insists the experience in the SEX AND THE CITY creator's latest project has been "fantastic."
"It's sweet and fun and sexy and all of these things that I am not!" she said, laughing.
With the first season wrapped, Foster said she's most " proud of the relationships" and characters on YOUNGER, a series bent on portraying four different in an honest comedic, though often biting, light. Foster's character, Liza, will also re-enter the dating scene following her divorce, which promises "some really great arcs" through the freshman season.
Though the series filmed solely in New York (mainly Brooklyn,) Foster is living on both coasts with her husband, screenwriter Ted Griffin, who admitted they packed up and headed west once last month's brutal winter weather settled in, and now they're just "bouncing back and forth."
"I'm realizing that I'll always love the gypsy life," she said. "I'll just go where the work is, or where I need to be. But we're truly bicoastal now! And I just think, god damnit, how'd that happen?!"
And though YOUNGER has yet to bow, the ever-busy Foster has a few projects on the horizon, contingent on the series being picked up for a sophomore outing.
"I have some irons on the fire! We're waiting to see how [YOUNGER] plays out," she said. "Hopefully there will be some announcements incoming."
And should the series go the way of BUNHEADS, all will likely work out for the star. The adored actress will keep on striving, on stage and screen, through nerves and self-doubt, and everything else that still proves she's unbelievably human.
"I'm proud of my career," she admits, as she should. "I'm proud of how hard I've worked, and the things I've accomplished, but I feel incredibly lucky. I just hope that I can continue working and keep growing. I don't ever want to ever stop. I still feel like I have so much farther to go. I'm still heading towards something."
On March 13, 2015, The New York Pops continues its 31st season with two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster in her solo debut at Carnegie Hall. For tickets to Foster's performance, featuring Joshua Henry and Meghan McInnis, click here.