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BWW Reviews: ONE NIGHT ONLY: SUTTON FOSTER with The New York Pops

"I'm going to go off-program for a moment," Sutton Foster advised the completely enraptured Carnegie Hall audience midway through the second half of her concert with The New York Pops this past Friday night.

Sutton Foster (Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy)

Being five days before her 40th birthday, the two-time Tony winner quipped that it was time for her to start "practicing some older roles."

Most likely there was more than one jaw that had to be scraped from off the floor when the next words out of her mouth were, "Here she is, boys! Here she is, world! Here's Rose!"

Sutton Foster is a about a decade and a half from truly being able to delve into the dark guts of Gypsy's leading lady, but her performance of "Rose's Turn," not even into her 5th decade, was crisp, intelligent and fully embraced by that ever-so-important aspect of musical theatre performing, good acting.

A few weeks after much of the country witnessed a nationally televised performance of musical theatre songs by a super-star who, in the words of Stephen Sondheim, "had no relationship to what she was singing," Sutton Foster spent an evening establishing firm relationships with her material.

With the peppy and charming New York Pops music director Steven Reineke taking his usual spot at the podium, the concert leaned heavily toward Cole Porter at first, opening with the Bill Elliot-arranged overture that was used when the evening's star played Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes and following with a Joe Price arrangement of "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Foster took a detour into Duke Ellington's catalogue for her first number, a giddy "I'm Beginning To See The Light," before delving into the tricky wordplay of Anything Goes' title tune and the blasé pining of "I Get a Kick Out of You."

For a refreshing change of mood, Foster's sweet and gentle rendering of John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulders" was performed in remembrance of her folk music loving mother.

Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry
(Photo: Genevieve Rafter Keddy)

Her Violet, co-star, "the great Joshua Henry," as she put it, moved the hall with a passionate "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cook, and then the pair clowned around for an exuberant tap routine set to "Fit as a Fiddle." Their mutual affection, abundant chemistry and keen dance skills brought the first half to a joyous close.

Highlights of the second half included arranger Fred Barton's The History of the TV Overture, a medley of opening melodies from classic programs like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bonanza, The Munsters, Bewitched, The Odd Couple and I Love Lucy.

Megan McGinnis, who appeared with Foster in Little Women and was introduced as "my best friend in the world," was on hand for a lovely duet of Craig Carnelia's "Flight," followed by a solo of Comden, Green and Styne's "Neverland," which McGinnis pointed out had new meanings for her as an adult.

Henry brought down the house with his Violet show-stopper, "Let It Sing," before Foster closed the night poignantly with "Anyone Can Whistle" and "Being Alive." Her encore was the 11 o'clocker that can truly be called her signature tune, Thoroughly Modern Millie's "Gimme, Gimme," but perhaps even more memorable was a moment when a voice from the audience starting singing "Happy Birthday" and much of the Carnegie Hall crowd immediately joined in for a full chorus. Such simple affection serves as adorable evidence that Sutton Foster is not only admired by her fans, but warmly loved.

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