Sutton Foster Returns to New York Stage With "Astonishing" Café Carlyle Show
By Steven Suskin
Two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster returned to the Café Carlyle Sept. 10 with a new act, opening the fall season at the legendary nightclub on Madison Avenue.
Foster, whose TV series "Bunheads" was recently cancelled, was in good voice and all smiles as she ran through 20 songs in a fast-paced hour. The musical comedy favorite, noted for her performances in Thoroughly Modern Millie and the Roundabout revival of Anything Goes, last appeared in New York in July in the outstanding one-night-only concert version of Jeanine Tesori's Violet as part of the Encores! Off-Center series at City Center.
The program was a potpourri of songs, including a handful of showtunes, a collection of jazz classics and a miscellaneous assortment of others. Foster explained that she and music director Michael Rafter were assembling a new CD, and they decided to use the Carlyle gig to sort out material.
After opening with the Lew Spence/Alan and Marilyn Bergman "Nice 'n' Easy," Foster gave us a mini-medley consisting of "Not for the Life" (from Millie), "NYC" (which she sang in the 1997 revival of Annie) and "Astonishing" (from her 2005 vehicle, Little Women). After the Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington standard "The Nearness of You," she turned contemporary with Christine Lavin's humorous "Air Conditioner."
From there it was a musical seesaw. A kittenish "Warm All Over" (from Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella) was followed by the Leon Redbone hit "Seduced." Cole Porter's "I Get a Kick Out of You," which Foster sang in Anything Goes, was followed by the Al Fields/Jimmy Rogers "It's Crazy (But I'm in Love)." Other selections included Francesca Blumenthal's "Lies of Handsome Men," Jeff Blumenkrantz's "My Heart Was Set on You," Harry Nilsson's "My Old Desk" and the Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg rouser "Down with Love" (from Hooray for What?)
Megan McGinnis, a close friend and castmate of Foster's from Little Women, joined the star for two close-harmony selections, Craig Carnelia's "Flight" and a lovely a cappella rendition of Paul Simon's "Old Friends." Foster then turned back to Hoagy Carmichael with "Georgia on My Mind," explaining that she was born in Georgia, moved in her teens to Detroit, spent a dozen years in New York and now lives in Los Angeles with a pool and an earthquake app on her phone. (Songcue: John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders.")
Foster then turned to Sondheim, pairing "Anyone Can Whistle" — which she sang in the 2010 Encores! production of that musical — with "Being Alive" (from Company). The singer ended the set with yet another Carmichael hit, "How Little We Know" and returned for an encore of James Taylor's "You Can Close Your Eyes." Accompaniment (from Rafter, on a sole piano) was strong throughout.
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