ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Someone Else's Story Sutton Foster's

By Seth Rudetsky
04 Mar 2013

A young Sutton Foster as Annie
During the interview segments, she talked about the fact that she never planned on doing theatre, but when she was 10 and living in Georgia, her mother encouraged her to audition for a local production of Annie. She said that her mother later told her that the entire room became silent when she started singing. Sutton wanted to be cast as Pepper, the sassy orphan, but she got Annie instead. I told her how bad I felt that she was forced to play the lead. Then, to “punish” her, I made her sing “Tomorrow” completely off-the-cuff. She not only remembered all the words, she sounded great! Maybe she can play opposite Jane Lynch this summer?

She talked about being 17 years old and seeing the Tony Awards on TV when she was living in Detroit. She noticed that the girls in The Will Rogers Follies were tall, and she knew she could dance like them. Then the national tour was getting ready to launch, and she read in the paper that they were doing a nationwide search for dancers. Sutton’s mom encouraged her to go (again) even though it specifically said that dancers had to be 18 years old. Sutton auditioned, and the associate (Jeff Calhoon!) asked her how old she was. She did a delicious doubletalk answer and told him, “I’ll be 18 on my next birthday.” Not since Wimpy’s “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger on Wednesday.” Regardless, he asked her to come to NY, and the very first Broadway theatre she ever walked into was the Palace, where she had her final call back. Tommy Tune lined everybody up on stage at the end and made cuts (a la A Chorus Line). By the end of the cuts, Sutton was cast (!) and spent her senior year of high school touring around the country. Let’s just say a perky, chitty chatty 17-year-old in the dressing was not what a lot of the seasoned older dancers wanted.

I have to say that her career should give hope to many struggling actors because she was cast in so many of her roles (Grease, Will Rogers, Les Miz) from open calls. Since she played Eponine on the road and on Broadway, I asked her if she ever had any mishaps. She remembered that once there was a Marius understudy on and they were doing Eponine’s death scene (spoiler alert?). Anyhoo, she was lying in his arms singing “A Little Fall of Rain,” and he was clutching her tightly to keep her from dying/falling. Well, instead of clutching her shirt, he was clutching her shirt and breast! She kept singing and trying to pull her boob out of his vice-like grip, but he thought the character was pulling away because she was dying, so he held on and squeezed even tighter. Suffice it to say, a young French girl has never been happier to die.

Speaking of Les Miz, I told her I had heard a rumor she was going to be in the film, and she confirmed onstage that she was one of the final contenders to play Fantine! How cool would that have been? I asked her how much weight she lost for the screen test, and she said she was doing Anything Goes so she was already super-skinny. Speaking of which, Reno was the hardest role she played and “Anything Goes” was the hardest number. Her dressing room was right underneath the stage, and when she’d go there for intermission, she’d see all the pictures on the wall hanging askance because of the enormous vibrations from the stage. Sutton said that after she’d perform that song she felt like her face was going to explode. That’s a real fun way to feel eight times a week.