BWW Reviews: SUTTON FOSTER at the Broad
In its series Broadway @ the Broad, which began in October 2013 with Patti Lupone, Sutton Foster was the latest star to grace the stage, featuring Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host. The event took place Sunday June 14 at the Broad in Santa Monica at 5 pm and 8 pm (which I attended), and Foster proved a real trouper. On her recent honeymoon in Italy she contracted laryngitis and her voice has been down ever since. It took some quick maneuvering to adjust the program to her vocal capability, but with Seth Rudetsky on board as accompanist, all went well, and the packed house was overjoyed with what Foster had to offer.
Foster opened quite nicely with "I Get a Kick Out of You" from Anything Goes and then proceeded to the stuffed armchair stage left to chat with Rudetsky about her career. Born in Georgia, the family moved to Detroit a few years later and Sutton did a lot of local shows, singing and dancing, one organization being the Peanut Butter Players, a kind of singing waiter/waitress type deal, where the performers serve lunch and then sing. She left high school before senior year (she eventually made up the work and graduated) to join The Will Rogers Follies on tour, directed by Tommy Tune and that led to her Broadway debut in Grease in 1996 again for Tommy Tune. She was the Sandy understudy and went on many times with Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and even had a chance to co-star with her brother Hunter Foster, who was also in the cast understudying Danny. When asked if she would be willing, she said flatly, "No!" After all, this is a sweet, unsoiled small town girl - having to play love scenes with her brother? The lovely thing about Foster's personality is her natural, down.home quality; she's the girl next door, and now, at 40, she still looks youthful and could pass for 26 as she is asked to do in her TV series Younger for TV Land, which was recently picked up for a second season. Foster amusingly related to Rudetsky when he asked her what it's like working on the small screen, "I couldn't believe they give you breakfast," she responded innocently. "I could order an omelette. I'm used to Broadway where they don't feed you." As to the difference in working onstage and on TV? "It's the same. Acting is acting. You dial it up or down depending on the medium." Sharp answer!
In the 75-minute set, Foster also performed two audition songs "Hey There" and "Cockeyed Optimist" from South Pacific and later did "Summer Lovin'" from Grease. To allow her some vocal rest onstage, Rudetsky, who I found to be much tamer this time around - not nearly as frisky as he was with Patti Lupone - introduced old friend, actor Kevin Chamberlain, who originated Horton the Elephant and was Tony nominated for the role in Seussical on Broadway. Chamberlain, a totally affable chap,
joked about being in Broadway choruses with Sutton and then performed the touching "Alone in the Universe" from Seussical with Rudetsky essaying JoJo while accompanying at the piano. Foster performed "You and I"/"The Story of Chess" from ABBA's Chess, which she had done years ago in a benefit concert, and concluded with two songs from Anything Goes: the tile song and "You're the Top". She also introduced her sweet little dog Mabel and did "Mabel This Time" to the strains of "Maybe This Time", which was a big plus for the audience. Animals, indeed, especially canines, always steal the show!
Sutton Foster is a real charmer and a stunning singer, whether she is forced to sing octaves lower due to illness or not. One perhaps wished for more luster and excitement in the evening, but as is, it was fine - Sutton received two standing ovations. She carried it off with style and bravura!