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by Michael Portantiere

Foster Child


    Sutton Foster

    Among theater people, Sutton Foster is as adored by tween girls as anyone who hasn't starred in Wicked, Spring Awakening, High School Musical, or Hannah Montana could possibly be, having gained an army of fans with her portrayals of spunky young women in Thoroughly Modern Millie (the title role), Little Women (Jo), and The Drowsy Chaperone (Janet Van de Graaf). Next season, the super-talented Foster's tween-idol credentials will be amplified when she co-stars as Princess Fiona in the Broadway musical version of the animated film neo-classic Shrek.

    Of course, she also has lots of adult fans. People of that demographic loved her in all of the above shows and, for the past several months, have been delighting in her sexy/comic turn as Inga in Young Frankenstein. You can bet that Foster-philes of all ages and stripes will turn out in force when, on April 4, she performs at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops in a tribute to the one of the musical theater's greatest and most popular lyricists, Oscar Hammerstein. I recently spoke with her about that exciting event and other upcoming projects..


    BROADWAYSTARS: Tell me about the program for the Pops concert.

    SUTTON FOSTER: Well, I probably have 10 songs, some of which I didn't know. There are songs from Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music. A bunch of stuff from Show Boat -- and I've never even seen that show, so I didn't know those songs at all.

    STARS: Aaron Lazar, from Les Miz and The Light in the Piazza, will also be performing. Do you guys have any duets together?

    SUTTON: We're doing a bunch of duets. Rosena Hill [from The Color Purple and Spamalot] is also in it, and we're all sort of incorporated throughout. Our first group rehearsal is Tuesday of next week. It's kind of crazy: I sang one song with the New York Pops during Little Women time, when Skitch Henderson was conducting, and I've also done a song or two with the Philly Pops, but I've never done anything like this. They send you all this music and you think, "Well, I've gotta learn it." It's been a real challenge to juggle that with working at Young Frankenstein. But the panic is starting to wear off, so I think it'll be fun.

    STARS: It must be an amazing experience to sing with an orchestra of that size.

    SUTTON: Yes, and to sing in that space. You stand in the center spot on the stage of Carnegie Hall and think of the other people who've stood there. That spot has an energy of its own. When I was growing up, I had a list -- I still have it -- of things I want to do before I die, and one of them was to sing at Carnegie Hall. Another thing on the list is to run the marathon, which I don't know if I'll do. But Carnegie Hall has always been a dream and a goal for me. Someday, I'd love to do a solo concert of my own there. That would be really cool.

    STARS: Your fans would easily fill the hall.

    SUTTON: Aww! Well, maybe the first couple rows. It really is thrilling to sing there. A few weeks ago, some people at Young Frankenstein asked me, "Why are you taking off on April 4? What are you doing that night?" And, I'm like: "Oh, umm, I'm doing a concert at Carnegie Hall." They were like, "What?!" I try not to make a big deal about it in my head so I won't freak myself out.

    STARS: Did you ever do an entire Rodgers and Hammerstein show?

    SUTTON: When I was in high school, I did Oklahoma! as Ado Annie. I did South Pacific at Pittsburgh CLO, as Nellie. I auditioned for [the most recent Broadway revival of] Oklahoma!, but I didn't get it.

    STARS: I understand if you don't want to say, but I was wondering if you auditioned for the current revival of South Pacific.

    SUTTON: I didn't, because I had already taken Young Frankenstein. Nellie is a wonderful role, and I'm a huge fan of Kelli O'Hara. I can't wait to see the production.

    STARS: Do you have anything else coming up?

    SUTTON: Yes. I'm doing a solo concert at Joe's Pub on April 28. It's a Monday night at 11:30, which is kind of late, but it's a really chill concert. The second week in May, I'm going into the studio to record an album, so the concert will be sort of a sneak peek at that stuff. We wanted to put it out into the world and see how people responded before we record it.

    STARS: What kind of repertoire is it?

    SUTTON: [Pauses] I'm trying to think of how to describe it. There are two new songs that were written just for the album. It's primarily a lot of covers, but a little off the beaten track. Michael Rafter, from Millie, is my musical director and collaborator. There's a small combo, not a big band. The album and the concert will have sort of a Broadway/folk feel.

    STARS: Well, thanks so much for talking. One thing before we go: Is there a recent headshot that you can send me to run with the interview?

    SUTTON: Oh, God. I just took photos on Monday, but they're not ready. We're taking more photos tomorrow for Shrek, but right now, I have nothing. People are like, "Sutton, your photos are seven years old." I'm like, "I know." If you want to run my old headshot, that would probably be your best bet.

    STARS: Seems like photos are not a major priority for you.

    SUTTON: Not at all! But I kind of have to do it now. It's time.


    [The New York Pops celebration of Oscar Hammerstein will be conducted by David Charles Abell and will also feature The Clurman Singers. For more information, click here.]

    Published on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

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