Yes, there is a Broadway; Sutton Foster found and conquered it


Sutton Foster is a terrific performer, as we found wen she sang for the Television Critics Association. Now she has that same sort of concert -- intimate and Broadway-laced -- on PBS Friday (April 20), Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For a while, Sutton
Foster didn't even know there was a Broadway, much less a chance to
conquer it.

She was a kid in
Georgia -- “no music, no theater” -- and then in Michigan
suburbia. “No one in our family is an entertainer,” she said. “My
dad worked for Chevrolet; my mom was a mom.”

And then, quite
quickly, both kids zoomed to the top.

Her brother Hunter,
48, has been in 10 Broadway shows and received a Tony nomination.
Sutton, 43, has done 11; she's twice won the Tony for best actress in
a musical and has been nominated six times.

Now comes a new
distinction: She launches a PBS series of intimate concerts by
Broadway stars.

“There are so may
fantastically talented young Broadway folks, with great voices, great
stories,” said producer Andrew Wilk. Foster is “the real deal,
just perfectly authentic.”

On Broadway – and
in TV's “Younger” and “Bunheads” -- she plays grown-up
versions of the girl next door. That's how she comes across in real
life, as a Michigan/Georgia kid, astonished to live in the city.

“I love and hate
New York,” Foster said. “We have this wonderful relationship.
It's a thrilling city and a frustrating one at the same time.”

She was born in
Statesboro, Ga., and was show-biz-ready in one way: She and her
brother were both given distinctive names.

“My mom and dad,
their names are Helen and Bob,” she said. So “my mom was like,
'We have to name our children something more exciting than Helen and
Bob .... As soon as I started to become interested in the arts, I was
like, 'My name is going to stick out.'”

Hunter and Sutton
started in the library, she said, checking out cast albums. “I was
just watching things on the Tonys (and PBS). It was just sort of like
this fantasy dream world.”

She also found that
Georgia does have lots of musical theater, after all. By the time she
moved north, at 13, she was experienced. At Troy (Mich.) High School,
she was Frenchie in “Grease” and starred in other musicals. At
15, she was on “Star Search”; at 17, she left school early
(finishing by correspondence) to go on the road with “Will Rogers
Follies.”

A decade later,
after four other Broadway shows, Foster got her biggest break: She
was in the ensemble of a pre-Broadway “Thoroughly Modern Millie,”
when, reportedly, Kristin Chenoweth dropped out and Erin Dilly turned
down the role. Foster took it to Broadway and won the 2004 Tony.

She would win again
in 2011 for the “Anything Goes” revival. By then, Foster says,
she “was feeling a major burnout, because you do eight shows a week
and it's incredibly taxing and grueling.”

So she did two short
seasons of “Bunheads,” as a former chorus girl who inherits a
small-town dance studio. Then – after another Broadway show
(“Violet”) and another Tony nomination – was “Younger.”

The cable drama –
which starts its fifth season in June – started with Foster as a
40-year-old, disguising as 26 to survive in Manhattan's
youth-obsessed world. It's a deception she could pull off easily.

Foster still comes
across as a young mom. She and her second husband (Ted Griffin, the
screenwriter for “Ocean's 11,” the “Terriers” series and
more) adopted a daughter, who recently turned 1.

“I waited (until)
later in life to start a family, and I'm so glad I did in many ways,”
Foster said. “Because I never would have been ready.”

She feels she's also
ready for a PBS intimate concert, reflecting on her career so far. “I
feel like the last six years, we've been kind of working towards,
oddly, this show.”

-- “Live at
Lincoln Center,” 9 p.m. Friday, April 20 (check local listings), PBS; Sutton Foster, with Jonathan
Groff of “Glee” as guest star..

-- First of four
intimate concerts by Broadway stars. The next three Fridays have
Leslie Odom, Jr., Stephanie J. Block and Andrew Rannells and.