When two-time Tony-winner Sutton Foster came out onstage she was greeted with a roar of boisterous applause before saying a word or uttering a note; her fans who filled Alice Tully Hall immediately showed her their love. Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series presents a variety of singers in a variety of venues from the Appel Room at the Jazz at Lincoln Center space to the intimate Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. On some rare occasions they also present artists in one of their larger venues, in this case, Alice Tully Hall – no doubt to accommodate her substantial and growing fan base. Acknowledging having previously performed in each of the other two venues, this definitely felt like a “step up” for her and reflects the growth of her career. But despite the size of the room, Foster managed to create a sense of intimacy.
Wearing an attractively simple outfit – black slacks and an off-the-shoulder black top with white trim — Foster sang in an unfussy, straightforward manner. Most of the time she stood still with her arms at her side; she didn’t need a lot of gestures—she’s a versatile performer who knows how to put over a song. Whether singing a soft ballad, belting out a brassy number, or presenting a charming song with attitude, she relies on her strong voice, clear enunciation, and her acting ability to convey the meaning of each and every lyric. Moreover, she has that sparkling smile that lights up a room—even a room as large as Alice Tully Hall.
With the back-up of a musical ensemble comprised of piano, guitars, bass, drums and percussion, the program included a wide range of songs that fit within the American Songbook’s parameters (songs written by American composers from the nineteenth century to present day). Introductions were kept to a minimum, with only a few personal anecdotes or references. She concentrated on singing: songs from theater, pop songs, some standards, and some clever arrangements combining songs into medleys. One song, apparently written for her, related to her part in the popular TV show, Younger. The lyric suggested the parts she might play if she were allowed to age. When she mentioned Mama Rose, the audience erupted—it’s easy to imagine her as a terrific Mama Rose a little further down the road.
Besides sharing the stage with the band, Foster sang duets with friends and former colleagues from past productions. In a mash-up of songs from Purlie and Thoroughly Modern Millie Darcie Roberts matched Sutton Foster’s ability to belt out a song, and their intensity and power doubled may have made the building shake. There were also duets with Megan McGinnis, who provided lovely harmonies, and later in the evening Foster was joined by Andrea Burns, Haven Burton, Sara Jean Ford, Megan McGinnis and Darcie Roberts who combined forces to create a lovely choral sound in their selections.
If I had a complaint, it would be that we didn’t have an opportunity to enjoy Foster’s dancing. She is the true definition of a “triple threat” and a formidable dancer. In any case, Sutton Foster filled the 75-minute performance with entertaining vocals and her special brand of theatrical charisma, which delighted those in the audience and clearly made her fans happy.
Sutton Foster in concert with Lincoln Center’s American Songbook at Alice Tully Hall, April 14, 2017. Music director: Michael Rafter; guitars: Kevin Kuhn; bass: Leo Huppert; drums: Clint de Ganon; percussion: Kory Grossman. Guest artists: Andrea Burns, Haven Burton, Sara Jean Ford, Megan McGinnis and Darcie Roberts.
Cover: Sutton Foster; photo: Kevin Yatarola.
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