The Cabaret Beat: A Chat with Sutton Foster

Special Features   The Cabaret Beat: A Chat with Sutton Foster Tony Award winner Sutton Foster gets ready to tackle the cabaret stage next month in Lincoln Center's American Songbook series
Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster

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Stage fright isn’t something one automatically associates with Sutton Foster. Having seen her command Broadway’s Marquis Theatre as the star of Thoroughly Modern Millie — as well as deliver several stop-the-show turns in benefit outings — one of the youngest women to ever win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical has shown a verve and power more often attributed to divas decades past her mere 28 years on the planet.

“But frankly,” Foster says of her upcoming solo debut in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series on May 15, “I’m a little terrified. Hopefully,” she continues, “if I’m good at it, this will be something I can have for the future, something,” Foster says with a tongue-in-cheek laugh, “thoroughly new.”

Indeed, since leaving Millie last February — after a nearly two-year run of over 700 performances — Foster has been busying herself with musical director Michael Rafter in planning the program, admitting that the concert has been an excellent way of focusing her career after saying bon voyage to Broadway’s sassiest flapper. “I feel like the New York community really only knows me as Millie. So, I wanted to show a different side of myself and put together a program that’s about songs I like to listen to, that really speak to me at my core. I didn’t just want it to be ‘Sutton Belts the Classics!’” To the contrary, indulging her deep love of blue grass, country and folk, Foster will feature several songs by Dolly Parton and Allison Kraus, among others, as well as a nod to the platform that made her a star.

“I’ll be tipping my hat to musical theatre—and to Millie, of course.” To that end, listen for numbers by Maury Yeston, Noël Coward and a never-heard trunk song from Rafter’s wife, Millie composer Jeanine Tesori, as well as a (fingers-crossed) reprisal of Foster’s Tony-winning signature, “Gimme, Gimme.” With Rafter leading a four-piece combo, Foster will also welcome back her Millie co-star, Gavin Creel, for a couple of numbers. “I saw his act at Fez, and I was so impressed. He was fantastic! Of course,” she demures, “he was doing all his own compositions, which I could never do.” Not yet perhaps, but give the girl time.

Although song-writing has yet to enter Foster’s artistic agenda, the actress also recently added “producer” to her resume. “Yup,” she laughs, “I’m multi tasking.” She recently helped mount a concert of Larry Grossman’s rarely performed musical Snoopy to benefit the Pied Piper’s Children Theater of New York. Though Foster probably won’t be including any of that show’s numbers in her Lincoln Center concert, she says, “You never know! Growing up, Snoopy was one of my favorite musicals. I did it when I was 14. And, lately, since I’ve been doing all these one-night-only benefit concerts — for the Actors’ Fund and Gay Men’s Health Crisis — I thought, ‘I’m gonna do one!’ I mean, I may be completely out of my mind,” she laughs. “But hey, I’m figuring it out as I go along. Plus,” Foster adds with a sigh, “it’s keeping me from missing Millie.”

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