LIVE REVIEW: Sutton Foster in Groton, MA (10.14.23)
What a treat it was to see television and Broadway star Sutton Foster perform at Groton Hill Music Center on Saturday night. She’s a delight–charming, inviting, warm, adorable. The audience enthusiastically cheered when the 48 year-old actress/singer bounded out onstage wearing a green, flowy dress and glittery heels. She opened with “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story.
I’m not a huge fan of show tunes or musicals though I’ve enjoyed many like Rent, Les Miserables, Hamilton, and most recently, Jagged Little Pill at the ART. I’m looking forward to seeing Lizzie, a musical about Lizzie Borden, at the Umbrella Arts Center on Sunday. I’ve seen Broadway in Boston shows but have never seen a play on Broadway. I discovered Sutton Foster on the Darren Star television show Younger, where the two time Tony-winner played a 40 year-old woman pretending to be in her 20s to get a publishing job.
Foster released two albums–Wish (2009) and Take Me to the World (2018). She’s won a Tony for best actress in a musical twice, in 2002 for her role as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie and in 2011 for her performance as Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. Most recently she starred as Marian Paroo opposite Hugh Jackman in The Music Man revival. Foster gushed about the gorgeous venue and that it was wonderful to be there. “It’s wonderful to be anywhere after the mess we’ve had.” She displayed her impressive vocal range and powerhouse voice throughout the evening. Musician and director Michael Raffer accompanied her on piano. She said they met during Thoroughly Modern Millie and have extensively toured the United States and internationally. They’d played San Francisco on Friday night. Throughout the evening, she shared a few stories and thoughts about living in New York for more than 25 years. Motherhood was also a major topic. Her daughter is in first grade. Before she sang a silly children’s song about tacos, she explained that as a mother she hears all kinds of music she hadn’t listened to before. She also notices things like playgrounds she hadn’t paid attention to in the past. After the song she deadpanned, “I’m a two-time Tony winner.”
Groton Hill Music Center has its stage set in a bit of a round. There are people seated in the balcony behind the stage. Foster acknowledged them saying, “I’m not used to people behind me. I don’t know if I brushed my hair.” Every so often she’d turn around to include them. Her ninety minute set included Broadway favorites like “Goodnight My Someone” from the Music Man which she said was her daughter’s bedtime song even before she starred in the play.
She did solid covers of John Denver’s perennial favorite “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” Sara Bareilles’s lovely “Manhattan,” the peppy, inspirational Fred Astaire song “Pick Yourself Up” and classic Doris Day “Que Sera, Sera.” Her expressive face combined with little gestures and dance moves added a lot of personality to the songs. She clearly carefully curated a setlist filled with songs that hold great meaning to her personally. At one point, she grabbed a huge tote bag and pulled over a chair and sat down. “This is one of my favorite things to do, this is crochet,” she said as she pulled out a work-in-progress blanket. She asked an audience member to choose a color and as she sang a song, she crocheted a line on the blanket. She reminded the audience that her memoir, Hooked, about how crafting helped her cope with life’s challenges, is available in paperback. As she closed out the show she remarked: “This is a beautiful space. What a treasure.” She then sang “thank you so much for coming, please get home safely . . . I’m going to have red wine.” Sutton Foster is a treasure.
Featured image courtesy of Groton Hill Music Center