Make us your home page
Instagram

Sutton Foster, one of Broadway's brightest stars, comes to the Straz

TAMPA — Sutton Foster takes a stroll backstage. Usually it's during sound check, an hour or so before her concerts, such as the performance she'll give Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

By definition, An Evening With Sutton Foster is going to represent the song list of Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes, for which she won Tony Awards. She will dip into popular and jazzy standards of the last century, plus a few tunes the Sandman forgot.

She might sneak a glance at the earliest arrivals. Are they older or younger? Sedate or peppy? Each venue is a little different, and sometimes the performances are too.

A few minutes after the stroll, she will retreat to her dressing room, vocalize and talk to her pianist. Whatever comes out of that conversation will determine the final version of the show.

In the quiet backstage moments, she will take a breath and try to get herself straight.

"I'll say my age in my mind," she said. "I'll say, 'Sutton, you're 40 years old. You've been working your whole life to be here. You can allow it to be good.' "

• • •

Getting there was neither easy nor impossibly arduous. Talent bloomed early. Foster was a Star Search contestant at 15. Encouraged by her Troy High School drama teacher in Michigan, she spent her senior year dancing with the Will Rogers Follies. After a head-clearing year at Carnegie Mellon University, she headed to New York.

Around 27, she rose from the chorus in 2002 to the lead role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, after Kristin Chenoweth, the original Millie, left to pursue television.

"I had big shoes to fill for Millie," Foster said of the role also played by Julie Andrews in a 1967 movie. "It's definitely intimidating, but I was very green and I think that helped me."

So green, Foster decided, it was time to try something new: voice lessons.

"I didn't know how to sing eight days a week," she said. A well-known "voice therapist" taught Foster to protect herself. Her acting, singing and dancing drew raves from critics, who compared her with Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and Shirley MacLaine.

Foster has since returned to the Broadway stage a half-dozen times, including in 2012 for Anything Goes. She's also worked in television, appearing on Bunheads and Flight of the Conchords. She now stars in the TV Land series Younger.

Expect her concert Sunday to reflect her Broadway shows but also more of Foster herself, who is going for intimate and personal on this tour.

"It's a feeling like we're all hanging out in my living room," she said. "As in, I'm going to give you a side of myself that you haven't seen yet. So it's a little more exposed, a little more vulnerable, as opposed to the razzle-dazzle."

Confidence to go there came from nine years in therapy and just living longer, she said. It's a lesson she tries to impart to theater students in master classes she has given at Ball State University.

"As I've gotten older I've definitely gotten more comfortable in my own skin," Foster said. "It's like, I'm enough. I don't have to add all the whipped cream and the sprinkles and the cherries and all the bells and whistles. Because then it's like, it's too sweet. It's too much. How do you allow who you are as a human being to be interesting enough to be singular, to be beautiful?"

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. If you go

Sutton Foster

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org

Sutton Foster, one of Broadway's brightest stars, comes to the Straz 12/11/15 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2015 6:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

    Blogs

    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert

    Briefs

    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23

    Events

    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)