Richard and I went to the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens to hear Sutton Foster with the New York Pops on 8/6/15. It was organized by our friends Bart and Greg, I think we were a group of twelve. Sutton Foster is a two-time Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical. Here’s an overview of her Broadway career: *Thoroughly Modern Millie* (cute show, first Tony win), *Little Women* (didn’t see it, Tony nomination), *The Drowsy Chaperone* (brilliant show, Tony nomination), *Young Frankenstein* (lousy show), *Shrek, the Musical* (cute show, Tony nomination), *Anything Goes* (wasn’t wild for it or her in it, second Tony win), *Violet* (beautiful show, Tony nomination). She’s also the star of the hit show on TV Land, *Younger*, which Richard and I adore.
The concert was with the New York Pops, conducted by their music director, Steven Reineke. I’d never heard them before, and they are really good! I’ll go through the program song by song:
Overture from *Anything Goes* (orchestra). Gretta and I counted about twelve modulations in this number. It was a little much.
“I’ve got you under my skin” (orchestra). This sounded suspiciously like the Nelson Riddle arrangement for Frank Sinatra, with a saxophone playing the Frank part. Would love to have that confirmed.
“I’m beginning to see the light” (Foster with orchestra - - of course all the numbers were with the orchestra, I’ll leave that bit out in the future). The perfect first song for her - - sweet and darling, and a great way to warm up her pipes. Plus a priceless ukulele solo by Kevin Kuhn.
“Anything goes” and “I get a kick out of you” from *Anything Goes* (Foster). “Anything goes” could have been two ticks faster, it was just a smidge slow. Hearing her do these songs was a reminder of why she was not satisfying in the role of Reno Sweeney: Foster is sunny and loveable with endless good cheer. Reno should be brassy, a little tough, a little naughty. Foster gave that in her performance, but it required effort.
“Begin the beguine” (orchestra). Such a glorious song, and a first-class arrangement.
“Ashokan farewell” (orchestra). Better known as the theme from the PBS series *The Civil War*. Pretty, but a little too swoopy in the solo fiddle parts, for my taste. One of the fiddle players added too many doodles to the tune, and they were dipsy doodles.
“Sunshine on my shoulders” (Foster). Yes, the John Denver song, in a lovely arrangement that pointed out what a pretty song it is.
“It all fades away” from *The Bridges of Madison County* (Foster). A good song, better than the show it was from.
“On the streets of Dublin” from *A Man of No Importance* (Colin Donnell). Donnell was a special guest star, he was in *Anything Goes* and *Violet* with Foster. He’s a good singer, but this song was so awful. It sounded like it was written for *Star Search*. And the F-bomb appears in the lyrics, which I found offensive. Don’t get me wrong, I use the F-bomb almost daily, it’s a very colorful and multi-use word - - but this was a family event, and it was not appropriate.
“Fit as a fiddle” from *Singin’ in the Rain* (Donnell and Foster). Cute number, with some highly competent tap dancing from the two of them.
Overture from *Thoroughly Modern Millie* (orchestra). Nice, though who remembers the songs from the Broadway show, as opposed to the songs from the movie?
“The History of the TV Overture” (orchestra). This was a medley of TV theme songs, sort of an audience participation hoo ha, where we were supposed to identify the themes as they came up. It was fun, and we did very well (I, personally, got all of them but *Frasier*, a show I never got into). It went on a little long - - the problem was that each segment went on too long. You really only need to hear enough of the song to recognize it, you don’t need the whole darn theme. These kinds of medleys need to move along briskly (I know from medleys, I have written a few). Plus on a personal note, I was sorely disappointed that they didn’t include my favorite TV theme ever, the theme from *Mannix*. But life is made of these kinds of disappointments.
“If I were a bell” from *Guys and Dolls* and “Singin’ in the Rain” from *Singin’ in the Rain* (Foster). Good songs, of course, but the arrangement didn’t know where it was going.
“Down with Love” (Foster). Great song, but too fast! I think she took the three ticks from “Anything goes” and moved them to this song.
“Flight” (Foster and Megan McGinnis). A super drippy number, a real eye-roller. The same two chord progressions over and over - - no thanks, I’ll have the waterboarding. OK, it wasn’t quite that bad. McGinnis has a pretty voice, she was good. She played Beth in Foster’s production of *Little Women*.
“Neverland” from *Peter Pan* (McGinnis). Very sweet, such a pretty song.
“The Lady is a Tramp” from *Babes in Arms* (orchestra). They played it well, but did we really need another solo number for the orchestra? I think not.
The next song was maybe the highlight of the show, a surprise for the audience, not in the program. Foster brought out her adorable dog, Mabel. Mabel is a rescue dog, Foster got her from a shelter. She held Mabel and sang “Maybe this time” from *Cabaret*, only she changed the lyrics to “Mabel, this time”. It was hilarious and too adorable for words.
“Anyone can whistle” from *Anyone Can Whistle* and “Being alive” from *Company*. “Anyone can whistle” is one of the most touching songs in Broadway history, am I right? Foster played that role and sang that song in the City Center Encores production a few years ago, and was brilliant. “Being alive” is a great song to end a show, sort of the musical theatre version of that grand old Richard Strauss song, “Zueignung”. You might not know this song, but it’s the standard issue final encore on an opera singer recital program. It’s got breadth, it’s loaded with grandeur, and there’s even a strong dash of old school diva false humility (nothing riles up the people like some of that) with the recurring phrase “habe Dank”, meaning “have thanks.” I don’t believe it’s in the score that the diva has to raise her arms with the last “habe Dank”, but I’m sure it’s happened that way in every performance since the song was written in 1885. Foster brought the house down with “Being alive”. And she raised her arms!
And then she did an encore! Two songs I didn’t know: “On my way to you”, a tender ballad from the Maureen McGovern songbook (on sale in the lobby), which went into “Gimme gimme that thing called love” from *Thoroughly Modern Millie*. And the crowd went wild.