In 1997, the then 22-year-old Sutton Foster landed her first real Broadway role as the Star To Be in the musical “Annie.”
Fate, it seems, knew what was in store for the actress.
Nine Broadway shows later, Foster has two Tony Awards as well as a couple of Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards to her credit. She starred in her own TV show, “Bunheads,” and even appeared on “Sesame Street.” Now, Foster is ready for a more intimate setting.
The talented actor/singer will perform some of her own songs as well as popular show tunes on Saturday at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda.
Foster said the biggest difference between her Broadway shows and the cabaret-style show she’s bringing to Strathmore is that she’s not playing a character, she’ll just be herself.
“It’s a totally different side of me as a performer,” Foster said. “The last thing I did in New York was ‘Anything Goes,’ where I was sort of a fabulous character with fabulous costumes and a wig and lots of makeup and eyelashes. Here it’s just a chance for audiences to get to know me as, like, the essence of who I am as a person as opposed to the characters that I’ve played.
“It’s a really cool opportunity to be able to sing the songs that I love and that I want to sing, say the things that I want to say and to sort of create an evening of song for an audience. It’s definitely a more intimate insight into who I am.”
Foster grew up in the small town of Statesboro, Ga., with her brother, Hunter. Foster’s father worked for General Motors, so the family moved to Troy, Mich., when she was older. Foster’s brother is a Broadway star in his own right, having been nominated for several awards for his role in “Urinetown.” He also received a Tony nomination for playing Seymour in the revival of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Still, Foster said it never dawned on them that they could do this for a living.
“We don’t come from a showbiz family,” Foster said. “My mom was a mom and my dad worked for General Motors. I started dancing when I was 4, but it wasn’t like, ‘Come on, honey, let’s go put on a show!’ It was more like that’s just what you do. It was fun. We got involved in community theater as kids and dancing and singing and performing — but I had no idea … I didn’t even know that a thing like Broadway existed …
“When we moved to Michigan when I was 13, that was when I realized ‘Oh, you can do this and get paid?!’ It didn’t even cross my mind, although I didn’t really have anything else I was interested in. There was never that one moment where it was like ‘This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life!’”
Foster’s jump to the small screen by starring in “Bunheads,” where she played a Las Vegas showgirl who teaches ballet in a small town. The show, which aired on ABC Family, only lasted one season before getting canceled by the network.
“I was devastated,” Foster said. “I really loved, loved doing that show. The people involved and the character I played — It was an amazing opportunity. I knew that we were a long shot to be picked up. I was so grateful for the outpouring of love and support we got on the show. I couldn’t have asked for a better first foray into television. I really have no regrets. Do I wish I could still be doing it? Of course I do. I loved it.”
After tackling the stage and small screen, it seems only natural that Foster would take on movies. The dark comedy “Gravy” is set to be released in theaters in December. Other than that, not too many people know the details of the movie. Luckily, Foster was willing to share.
“I read the script and it was written by James Roday, who is a brilliant writer and actor,” Foster said. “When I read the script, I said I have to be in this movie! It’s a crazy, quirky, culty black comedy/horror film about cannibalism. You know, just your typical day. I thought that would be an interesting thing to be a part of. It was just a blast to film. I haven’t seen it yet, but it was definitely unlike anything I’ve done before. It is a quirky, weird-ass movie and I absolutely loved doing it.”
In the meantime, audiences can see Foster doing what she does best — singing and performing on stage.
“I think they can expect to see an intimate show,” Foster said. “It’s really like behind the false eyelashes, behind the sequins … it’s just very simple and … a way for me to show audiences who I am as a human being, as a person, as a performer and as an artist.”