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Interview with Sutton Foster

Young Miss Foster looks 17 and sings like she's been part of musical theater well beyond her years. She's won several awards in 2002 including a Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Astaire Award for her performance as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie. So you could say Sutton has had a good year.

Other Broadway credits include Les Miserables (Eponine), Annie (Star to Be) The Scarlet Pimpernel (Ensemble) and Grease! (Sandy). Sutton has a host of regional and touring shows in her past. This talented young lady is undoubtedly one of the hottest gals on Broadway today.

I had the pleasure of stealing a bit of time from her busy "Millie" schedule to chat with Sutton, prior to her trip to Philly to join her colleagues in Peter Nero and the Philly Pops "Broadway Showstoppers" concert.

Sutton's charm can be traced to her southern background, having grown up in Georgia and she also has family in North Carolina. Her mom was always interested in entertainment and finding things for the kids to do and dad worked for General Motors. She admits there wasn't an ounce of theater experience in her immediate family. But now that she's found her way to the stage, the announcements about a great grandfather playing the trumpet comes forward! Fortunately mom got the kids involved in movies and things to do and Sutton & her brother Hunter finally found their way to the theater.

For Sutton, the theater was where she fit in. She found fun and friends but never thought of it as a career. She explains,"we weren't like the singing Fosters. (laughing). It was something we liked to do on the side." From high school plays through doing some professional shows, Sutton still was unsure about making a career of entertaining. She questioned if she had the tenacity to make a living from performing. It was not until the past couple of years that she decided this is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. She feels very lucky and grateful to be where she is and is still "figuring things out as she goes."

Among some of Sutton's most memorable experiences are her recent involement in the Funny Girl and Chess benefit concerts. "As much as Millie has been amazing, life altering actually, demanding, wonderful, these two benefits were just thrilling. To perform before your ultimate peers was personally fulfilling," says Sutton.

Like most performers, Sutton keeps herself vocally and physically in shape with vocal warm ups daily, which she had to learn the importance of this through trial and error very early in her professional career. She now has a vocal lesson once a week. "Millie was one of the hardest things to sing for me and I sort of learned how to sing it as I went along. I'm pretty strict with myself, using steam, drinking ginger tea and throat lozenges, lots and lots of water and resting my voice during the day for the show," adds Sutton.

As far as roles that Sutton would like to play, she would like to create something new. Regarding Little Women, a project in future plans, she feels this is really a "possibility," not a done deal but she's currently pursuing it. We talked about the role of Jo being a perfect fit for Sutton's persona. She will do a solo concert in May at the Lincoln Center, which is both exciting and terrifying (laughing) for her. She's also producing a benefit of Snoopy, the Musical for the Pied Piper theater children in New York City on April 12th at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in upper Manhattan. The members of the Broadway community will be performing it for the children and families of the theater. This will be to raise money for the theater to get some of the things this children's theater will need to get bigger and better.

I added, "there are a lot of young people who look up to performers such as you. Kids are moving up through the high school musicals and community shows. What would you suggest based on your experience, that these young hopefuls can do to further their theatrical careers?"

Here's her advice. "Experience! Take every opportunity you can. Try to learn as much as you can. Do shows, no matter what level it is. If you want to come to New York, don't limit yourself, meet as many people as you can. I would never be where I am if I hadn't taken the eight jobs that I did before. You really have to believe in yourself and get yourself out there. Ask the world what you want. And tell the world what you want. I think a lot of people think they can't do this. You have to really believe that you can. People underestimate the power that they have." 

I asked her to tell us about the help she's gotten with her career. Sutton shares this. "I've had a lot of amazing coaches. I think I had a natural singing voice and talent at about 10, but I never would be where I am without the incredible teachers and coaches. It's vital. You have to be open and learn to accept criticism."

She agrees that much can be learned in other parts of the country. Sutton shared that she's had some of the most incredible experiences in San Jose, LaJolla and the Goodspeed and added, "being on Broadway is awesome, but doing theater anywhere is also awesome." 

"A lot of young people look up to you as a role model on Broadway and that's a wonderful compliment and responsibility." Sutton's comment on that is, "this whole experience has been mind boggling, to be able to be some type of role model to anyone wanting to be in this business and to show them that you can be yourself and you don't have to be anything but yourself and it can happen. It has been the highlight of my experience." 

We ended our chat on that happy note and it's very likely that Broadway will look forward to seeing Sutton Foster for many years.


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From This Author Pati Buehler