Lady in the Limelight

Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster prepares for her debut at Strathmore

”I would torture my family with made-up arias and stuff, and sing around the house,” Sutton Foster says of her childhood days in Georgia and Michigan. Of course, her family’s torture has become the world’s pleasure. The 38-year-old has been nominated an impressive five times as Leading Actress in a Musical at the Tony Awards in just a decade. She’s won twice, in both cases for taking on roles associated with legendary performers: Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone in Anything Goes.

Sutton Foster

Sutton Foster

(Photo courtesy Sutton Foster)

”That was definitely scary!” concedes Foster, while noting that her upbringing in a very non-theater household helped. ”I didn’t grow up with Broadway, or even cast albums. I didn’t even know what the Tony Awards were until I was probably 15 years old,” she says. ”I think being green and naive served me really well. I think if I had all of that savvy I probably would have been more fearful and maybe not as brave.”

Instead, Foster started performing with gusto as a toddler, first dancing ballet, then singing in high-school theater. Her older brother Hunter followed her passion and is also now a professional stage actor as well as a playwright. ”I didn’t have stage parents. I wasn’t born into a showbiz family,” says Foster, whose dad was an executive at General Motors. ”But they were very encouraging.”

Last year Foster starred in the now-canceled ABC Family series Bunheads, written by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. Foster has a few new projects ”percolating” in television – and in theater. ”Of course!” she says of a making a return to Broadway. ”Everyone’s like, ‘We’ve lost you to television.’ It’s not going to work that way. My goal is to have a long, full, lustrous career.”

Next Saturday, Oct. 12, Foster will make her debut at the Music Center at Strathmore, performing a cabaret with pianist Michael Rafter that recently got a rave review in The New York Times for its ”savvy choices.” The show features ”a whole slew of new songs and some really cool American Songbook and old jazz standards,” Foster says. ”But there is definitely a potpourri of things from musicals past.”

Sutton Foster performs Saturday, Oct. 12, at 8 p.m., at Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Tickets are $26 to $78. Call 301-581-5100 or visit strathmore.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

Please Leave a Comment