“This is a dream come true,” said Sutton Foster on Friday evening as she made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops. Foster, who has been Broadway’s darling for more than a decade, made a wish list when she was 15 years old. Singing at Carnegie Hall was number one. Of course, with 11 Broadway shows under her belt, it was just a matter of time.
Foster presented an evening of standards and American folk music—a program built in collaboration with the Pops’ music director and conductor Steven Reineke. While the draw for many Pops concerts is its A-list talent roster, the massive orchestra (the largest independent pops orchestra in the country) is reason alone to subscribe as affirmed by a number of selections, including the overtures from Anything Goes, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the premiere of a new piece, “The History of the TV Overture” arranged by Fred Barton.
But it was Foster’s evening and her clear, belting voice was in excellent form from the get-go with an upwardly key-changing rendition of “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” Audiences were happy to hear her revisit selections from Anything Goes, for which she won a 2011 Tony Award. The Pops also embraced the Cole Porter theme and delivered an undulating, percussive orchestral version of “Begin the Beguine.”
It was an emotional evening for Foster. On the verge of turning 40, she reminisced about her mother, who died last year, and the fond memories of listening to 8-track tapes—particularly John Denver. She sang “Sunshine On My Shoulder” in her honor and it was as if the Carnegie Hall’s vast ceiling opened up to let her mother’s spirit shine through.
Foster welcomed Joshua Henry (Violet, The Scottsboro Boys), Megan McGinnis (Daddy Long Legs, Little Women) and her longtime musical director and collaborator Michael Rafter to join her for the evening. Each had his or her moment to shine, but it was Henry’s anthem “Let It Sing” from Violet (for which both Foster and Henry were nominated for Tony awards) that brought down the house. That is, until Foster went off program.
Cheekily walking to center stage with a music stand and her songbook in hand, Foster embraced her forthcoming milestone birthday and indicated it was time to consider more age-appropriate roles. She then tackled one of the most iconic numbers in musical theater history: “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy. It was in this moment Foster reaffirmed that she is a force to be reckoned with. At times flirty and at others enraged, she tore through the number as if she’d been playing it for a year. Ethel Merman was 51 years old when she originated the role, so we’ve got about a decade until Foster truly ages into the role, and most likely earns another Tony award.
Before her final encore (the much beloved “Gimme Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie), Foster took a moment, head in her hands, and said, “This has been… just beyond.” It was for the audience as well, who clearly had a dear affection for the affable performer who continues to carve her own path on Broadway and beyond. Be sure to check out her new show, “Younger,” premiering on TV Land on March 31.
Save the Date
Want more of The New York Pops? Check out these upcoming events:
Let’s Be Frank – a Tribute to Frank Sinatra
With Tony DeSare, Storm Large, Frankie Moreno, and Ryan Silverman
The New Golden Age – The Pops 32nd Birthday Gala
Honoring Kathleen and Rob Marshall and featuring Alan Cumming, Sutton Foster, Donna Murphy, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Rachel York and more.
Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor as well as a contributor to many print and online publications. Follow him on Twitter at @roodeloo.