Triple-threat actress Sutton Foster gave a spirited and captivating performance in the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center on Feb. 8. Even though the concert was not heavily publicized, Foster still drew in a large and enthusiastic audience with her reputation as a Broadway powerhouse.
Known for her Tony Award–winning leading roles on Broadway as Millie Dillmount in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (2002), Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes” (2011) and her origination of the role of Fiona in “Shrek the Musical” (2008), Foster also stars on TV Land’s comedy-drama “Younger” (2015) where she plays the role of Liza Miller, the show’s protagonist. According to Foster, she only films “Younger” for four months out of the year, leaving her a lot of time to pursue her singing career and go on concert tours.
The concert was opened by a short set of speeches by Department of Music Chair Richard Jankowsky and University President Anthony Monaco, both of whom were in attendance that evening. University benefactors Perry and Marty Granoff were graciously recognized by Jankowsky and Monaco for their contributions to the Department of Music and for making Foster’s concert possible.
Foster sang works and arrangements of a variety of styles, ranging from rock to jazz to classic show-tunes. While many of the works were performed reminiscent of Foster’s time on Broadway, Foster also gave live performances of several songs from her three solo albums, many of which revolved around the theme of compassionate or unrequited love. The concert was fast-paced, with over 20 numbers performed in total. Even so, Foster was able to adopt distinct characters even before the first note was struck on the piano; rarely does one see a performer who puts their whole being into their art in the way Foster does.
This versatility of Foster’s voice lent itself to both intimate and performative connections with the audience, swinging from love songs tenderly sung against the piano and under the soft lights to the belted melismatic solo passages of a prima donna in the crowd-pleasers part of the program. Her distinctive voice warmly and purely pierced through the air and was complemented by her thoughtful musicality and lyric acting; she truly sang to the hall and let her voice jostle every inch of air and fill every member of the audience.
Foster was not the sole musician on stage that evening. The Tufts Chamber Singers joined Foster in a chillingly beautiful rendition of the traditional gospel song “I’m On My Way,” featuring Foster and several members of the Chamber Singers as soloists. Broadway actress Megan McGinnis, Foster’s stage-sister in the Broadway production of “Little Women” (2005), performed two duets with Foster. Foster and McGinnis, self-proclaimed “best friends” as expressed by Foster onstage, gave a heartfelt performance of “Flight” from Sutton’s album “Wish” (2009), where their voices were blended in warmth and emotion. The performance was anchored by Michael Rafter’s piano accompaniment. Rafter, who has worked with Foster for years and acts as her music director, was responsible for the arrangements and song medleys performed in her concert.
Foster was applauded back to the stage in a well-deserved standing ovation for an encore performance of her opening song: a rollicking rendition of “A Cockeyed Optimist” from Logan and Hammerstein II’s hit musical, “South Pacific” (1949). Her stage presence and general demeanor made it evident that she loves what she does.