Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Foster has a clear, pure singing voice and knows how to find both the humor and the emotion in every lyric of each song she sings. She won two Tony Awards, for Thoroughly Modern Millie and the most recent Broadway revival of Anything Goes, she currently stars in the TV show "Younger," and she has also released several solo recordings. Her concert featured songs from both of her Tony winning performances, her solo albums, and also musical numbers from other shows she's appeared in, both on Broadway and on tour. Two songs from Anything Goes bookended the concert, including a spirited take on "I Get a Kick Out of You" that got the evening off to a great start and a rousing performance of the title song that ended the show.
Like past concerts in the Broadway @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts series, the evening included Rudetsky asking questions between songs to give the audience more information about the performer. These touched upon Foster's past, her musical training, the auditions for the roles she became famous for, and the impact motherhood has had on her. The duo have been friends for a very long time and their close friendship and familiarity provided the concert with many humorous interactions as they continually joked with each other and brought up funny moments from Foster's past.
Foster mentioned that, after taking dance classes for a few years, she got her first taste of appearing in a musical when she was cast at just ten years old as the lead in her local Georgia production of Annie. Seven years later, after her family moved to a suburb of Detroit and after some intense auditions, she found herself in the female ensemble of the first national tour of The Will Rogers Follies. She added that, while it was a great opportunity, it was a difficult time for her, since all of the other women in the cast were much older.
She later appeared in the tour of the revival of Grease, and also played the part of Sandy in the Broadway production of the show for a few weeks. Her brother Hunter Foster was also appearing in that production, understudying the part of Danny. When the actor playing Danny was out of the show, it led to an uncomfortable conversation the siblings had with the producers, who asked if the two of them would at all be up to playing against each other. Sutton said there was no way they would do it, so, fortunately, the other understudy for Danny played against Sutton for her few weeks in the show. Seth then got Sutton to sing a fun and unplanned duet of "Summer Nights" from the show that included plenty of audience reaction, as well as a spontaneous moment when a woman from the practically sold out crowd handed over her phone to Foster with the lyrics from the song when Sutton and Rudetsky, who didn't have the music for the number with him, couldn't remember them. Sutton also appeared in the tour of Les Misérables, as the understudy for Eponine, and her performance of "On My Own" was sublime.
Seth spent a good chunk of the evening talking to Sutton about her experience with Thoroughly Modern Millie. Foster mentioned that she was one of a few women being considered for the lead role for the La Jolla Playhouse tryout of the show but ultimately wasn't selected. However, she was offered a part in the ensemble of the show. At the same time she was also offered the chance to play Eponine in the Broadway run of Les Misérables. She said that, since she'd never originated a part or appeared in a new work, she took the ensemble part in Millie, which her manager thought was a crazy move. But while she was in La Jolla, the producers asked her to step in to rehearse for the lead and after a few days she was offered the part. Seth then asked her to sing the two songs she sang for her Thoroughly Modern Millie audition, "Hey There" and "A Cockeyed Optimist," both of which were exceptionally sung.
Rudetsky talked about the importance of having a "signature" song, commenting that Carol Channing once told Andrea McArdle, who was complaining about her association with "Tomorrow" from Annie, that having one is an honor, as that way they'll always have something to play when you appear on the Tony Awards. Sutton's performance of "Gimme, Gimme," her signature song from Thoroughly Modern Millie, received a stellar delivery with some impressive, sustained high notes.
Foster also delivered a stunning performance of Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" that derived humor from the song's handful of comical lyrics while also achieving a serious tone in its dramatic storytelling. She also commented on how being an adult and her recent experience of motherhood has changed how she looks at life and how the words and meanings in some of the songs she has sung over her career also now strike her in different ways.
Other songs in the concert included the fun, fast-paced "Down with Love" and a rich and romantic pairing of "If I Were a Bell" and "Singin' in the Rain," as well as a trio of songs she sang on Broadway that she calls her "little girl, big dreams" trio. This number included "Not For The Life Of Me" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, "NYC" from Annie, where she played the Star to Be in the Broadway revival of the show that starred Nell Carter, and the soaring "Astonishing" from Little Women. A rousing encore of "Oklahoma!" ended the night on a high.
This series of concerts provides an intimate and personal way for Phoenix audiences to see and hear some exceptional Broadway performers. Upcoming concerts in the Seth Rudetsky Broadway @ Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts series include Audra McDonald on January 19, 2019, and Jeremy Jordan on February 9th, 2019.
Sutton Foster performed at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, December 14, 2018. Information for upcoming concerts at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts can be found at www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org