Cabaret Review: "Sutton Foster"
by Jonathan Warman
Sutton Foster is a character actress in an ingenue's body, with the vocal chops of a classic musical comedy leading lady. In her Cafe Carlyle debut, Foster performs an eclectic evening of standards, pop and Broadway, including selections from her debut album Wish. She uses her comedy chops with great intelligence, especially in Christine Lavin's risque “Air Conditioner,” enumerating all the potential lover's aspects that don't matter as long as he has the title appliance.
Of course she really lets the shtik (and belting) fly for “Show Off,” her big number from The Drowsy Chaperone; it was a showstopper in the musical, and gets a well-deserved big hand here. Foster successfully shows some range with her emotional rendition of Jeff Blumenkrantz's “My Heart Was Set on You” – her take is by turns tender and heartbreaking. And she shows immaculate musical taste in her glowing rendition of Duke Ellington's “I Like the Sunrise” from his 1947 Liberian Suite.
She also gives plenty of back story on the shows she worked on, including a particularly engrossing story about how Denniker & Razaf's “'S'posin” in Thoroughly Modern Millie overnight became Tesori and Scanlan's “Say That” – using exactly the same orchestration. Only to be cut altogether before the show made it to Broadway.
All aspects of her talent come together in a segment of the show entitled “The Big Book of High Belt Songs.” She throws the titles of several songs of that type into a big cup, from which an audience member pulls one at random. On the night I was there, the selection was “Defying Gravity,” a gratuitous display of range, pure technique, a bit of sly comedy, and abundant high dramatics. Foster is most at home triple-threating in a Broadway musical, but she seems as comfortable (and engaging) as can be on the Carlyle stage.
For tickets, click here.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see dramaqueennyc.blog.