The fact that the world is getting smaller holds true for the theater community as well. And because of that small degree of separation, Tony Award-winning actor, singer and dancer Sutton Foster will appear at the Palladium on Saturday Oct. 5, at 8 p.m. for “An Evening with Sutton Foster,” a concert to benefit Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI).
Foster will be joined by Broadway conductor/music director, Michael Rafter. As it turns out, in June 2012 ATI artistic director Don Farrell was in the cast of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” at Pennsylvania Center Stage, a show for which Rafter was music director. Farrell and Rafter struck up a friendship, after which Farrell invited him to Carmel in Sept of ’12 to participate in a “Talk Back” session after ATI’s production of “Gypsy” (for which Rafter won an Emmy for his music direction of the 1993 television version starring Bette Midler). Rafter returned in June to work with high school students in an ATI sponsored intensive course. As a result of his association with ATI, Rafter later offered to facilitate the benefit concert featuring Sutton, which, through his efforts, came into fruition.
Regarded as one of Broadway’s most prominent stars, Foster won Tony Awards for outstanding actress in the musicals “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and has performed in ten Broadway shows. She originated roles in the Broadway productions of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Little Women,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Shrek the Musical.”
Speaking recently by phone with Examiner.com from Florida where she was visiting her parents, Foster said that she is thrilled to support the ATI and theater in general because “I can tell you just from personal experience that without the outlet of theater for me as a kid, I don’t know where I would be. With sports so highly supported and funded all across the country and arts being cut in the schools, I feel that theater is critical for creativity and entertainment not only for performers but also for audiences.”
As a solo artist, Foster has performed all over the country and world-wide with music director Rafter, performing songs from her debut solo CD “Wish,” as well as her follow-up CD, “An Evening With Sutton Foster: Live at the Café Carlyle.” She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Joe’s Pub, and many others.
According to Foster, her Palladium concert will include a mix of Broadway songs and cabaret-style ballads as well as some new songs. “Michael and I are developing a new album, so the concert will most likely have songs from it. It will be a very spontaneous and flexible evening so there is a possibility that we will be doing some songs for the very first time and trying out new material,” said Foster
In addition to supporting ATI, Foster said that she views her concert as an “opportunity to give a more intimate, raw exposure of who I am as person rather than someone playing a character. It’s a chance for people to get to know me as an artist and as a person. There’s a lot of music from the American Songbook, jazz standards and some trunk songs, songs that are familiar and songs that no one has heard.”
Besides the ATI benefit at the Palladium in Carmel, Sutton just happens to have yet another connection to Indiana, proving that, indeed, the theater world is small. Foster is associated with Ball State University. In fact, she received an Honorary Doctorate degree from BSU where she also is on faculty as a teacher and advisor to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Foster says that this year she is conducting a 15-week Skype course with 11 musical theater seniors. It’s a cabaret course based around the music of Irving Berlin. “Basically I call in and the students sing for me. At the end of the semester we’ll perform a cabaret show that is completely created by the students. I’ll be there for that. I try to get to campus at least once a year but most of the time it is once a semester.”
When asked how the association with BSU came about, Foster said that Bill Jenkins, the theater department chair, reached out to her through her agent and asked her to speak to students while they were in New York for their annual student showcase. “I said ‘sure.’ I fell in love with the students and the faculty and they have asked me to participate every year since. One of my dreams is to be a teacher and to work with the new generation of performers. It has just been an awesome partnership and collaboration and I just adore the students and absolutely love coming to campus.”
And what does Foster, the established professional, most look forward to when she performs at the Palladium? “I will say that one of my greatest joys is to sing with Michael my music director. There is something very exciting and freeing about creating an evening in which every song and every lyric and every note is something that I’ve had a hand in picking. No one is telling me what to sing and I am not singing someone else’s work. It’s all mine. There is something very powerful about that.”
For tickets and information about “An Evening with Sutton Foster,” call (317) 843-3800 or visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.
Do you wish to become a regular reader of this column? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above. Also, "Like" Tom Alvarez or Facebook and follow him on Twitter.