Dallas — Award winning actress Sutton Foster’s success story is almost as famous as she is. In a plot twist that might have been derived from a Broadway musical, the actress went from understudy to star of Thoroughly Modern Millie in a matter of weeks, catapulting her to fame and allowing her to earn the first of her two Tony Awards. She has gone on to become one of Broadway’s biggest stars as guaranteed box office in shows like Young Frankenstein, Anything Goes (for which she won her second Tony) and Violet. She has also translated to a successful television career, starring first in Bunheads and now in the critically acclaimed Younger.
The highlights of Ms. Foster’s bio gloss over one of the most prominent and accomplished portions of her art. With time, she has established herself as one of the age’s premiere popular vocalists, not just on stage but also in concerts, cabaret shows and a pair of successful CDs. It is Sutton Foster, the illustrious singer, who will grace the DSO stage this weekend.
Ms. Foster’s singing demonstrates a remarkable and sometimes startling array of styles, dynamics and vocal range. She has proven herself equally adept at romantic ballads as at Broadway power songs. She can shake the rafters with the high notes in songs like “Astonishing” from Little Women or rattle a swinging jazz tune like “Anything Goes.” But she can also hold the audience spellbound with the reflective stillness of a gentle song like “Always” by Scott Alan or “This Is by the Book” famously deleted from the Broadway show, Shrek.
In anticipation of her visit to Dallas, performing April 6-8 in the Dallas Symphony Pops series, the actress/singer was eager to talk about her craft, her influences and the effect of her busy schedule on the vocal aspects of her career.
TheaterJones: You’ve shown a range of styles — from the Broadway belter to a more intimate jazz and ballad voice. How did you attain and how maintain that remarkable versatility? How wide a range will we see in the Dallas concert?
Sutton Foster: You'll see all of it! I'm really proud and excited about the repertoire we've created. I have a wonderful collaboration with my music director Michael Rafter, and we've been working together doing concerts for 15 years. In fact in Dallas we will be debuting two new orchestral arrangements. One of the things that Michael has taught me is that there is power in intimacy. When I was first starting out I thought that bigger and louder was better, but working with him, and trusting different parts of my voice, I've grown as an artist and become more versatile. Michael and I are constantly exploring new styles and new sounds. It's exciting to keep growing and learning.
Who were/are your singing influences?
When I was first starting out, Patti LuPone, Liz Callaway, and Lea Salonga.
Musical training, like a sport, is a continuous commitment. Does the busyness of doing a television show interfere with your musical work?
What is great is that I get to do concerts like sing with the Dallas Symphony and it helps keep me in shape! I've been able to average one or two concert engagements a month while I have been filming Younger and that has been amazing.
Many young actors, boys and girls, are now growing up dreaming of being Sutton Foster. Who does Sutton Foster dream of being?
Ha! First of all, I would tell those young people to blaze their own trails, don't try to be me! Because I already exist. I always try to encourage people to embrace their singularity and individuality and make a new mark. As for me? I just hope to keep on going. I'd love to keep performing and working for as long as I'm able. To keep making and creating art and music. Keep blazing my own path forward.
Are there dream roles or dream musical experiences that continue to inspire you?
I'd love to work on something new and original, and I'd love to continue to make music with Michael Rafter. We have a new album coming out this summer, so I hope there are many more after that.