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Student Press Review
On Tonys and teaching
Thoroughly Modern Millie's award-winning ingenue Sutton Foster
Editor's note: Originally published: January 16, 2004
Sutton Foster with her Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award (2002) for her performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Photo : Bruce Glika, Broadway.com
How does an interview with the Tony Award-winner for Best Actress in a Musical begin?
You would expect to hear about where she was raised, her inspirations as an actress and as a woman...and maybe even what she had for breakfast.
But with Sutton Foster, star of Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie, you don't have to ask anything at all.
Foster comes out, whisks you in, and sits you down on a green futon sofa adorned with a pillow of SpongeBob SquarePants.
"How are you?" she asks in a voice that rings with timbre and sweetness.
Looking around, momentarily facing an overstuffed rubber ducky chair and a picture of her and Hugh Jackman. You can almost reply with something her Millie Dillmount alter-ego may say: "I've never felt better...not for the life of me."
It's hard to believe that a person who has come so far can still remain so down to earth. Foster grew up in Augusta, Georgia taking dance lessons at age four and participating in community theater by age 10.
"My mother was interested in movies and entertainment. She thought it would be fun for me and my brother to try theater," she said. "We came in having no idea what it was like. We just wanted to have a good time, but then we realized we were quite good at it."
Perhaps "quite good at it," is an understatement, as her brother Hunter went on to star in Urinetown, and, now, in the Broadway debut of Little Shop of Horrors while Sutton took on Broadway's Les Misérables, Annie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Grease!.
What may be even more surprising is that despite having all of these shows under her belt, Foster was ambivalent about pursuing a permanent career in theater.
"There was so much I wanted to do. I was really afraid of being successful and having to deal with success. I was equally afraid of failing and having to deal with that. Finally I admitted to myself that this is my true heart's desire. The business is all about success and failure. For every job I did get, there were 50 that I didn't," said Foster.
Foster's break came when she left the role of Eponine in Les Misérables to be an ensemble member for the La Jolla Playhouse's Thoroughly Modern Millie in California.
A week before previews, Erin Dilly, playing Millie at the time, fell ill. Foster was asked to fill in. When Dilly left the show, Foster was asked to take over.
Shocked and in a maelstrom of emotion, Foster learned the role in three days. What followed was an ending one would only expect to find in a Morris and Scanlan script: Foster was asked to play Millie on Broadway.
Since then, Foster has received the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Astaire Award, and the 2002 Tony Award for her performance as Millie. She's also given stellar performances on "The Today Show," "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," and "Live! with Regis and Kelly" and received rave reviews for her performance on the newly released album, The Maury Yeston Songbook.
While many Broadway stars set their sights on jucier acting roles and even dream of directing and producing, Foster's ambitions point in a different direction than a another Broadway stage.
"I would really like a degree in teaching," she said.
When Foster makes that statement, she usually receives surprised looks. It may be hard to imagine a person so comfortably ensconced in the world of entertainment to leave her place in the sun.
Foster laughs and says, "There are no rules; you make up your own. Just do what you like; that's what shapes your future."
And what a wonderful future it is when you're the charismatic and talented Sutton Foster.
Irina Ikonsky is a senior at Staten Island Technical High School in Staten Island, N.Y. Ikonsky is one of 12 New York City high school students selected to participate in the Fall 2003 semester of CSPA's Stringers Program, co-sponsored with Camp Broadway.
Editor's note: Irina was first introduced to Columbia University through the Stringers Program and as a result, applied to its undergraduate College. She was recently notified of her acceptance to Columbia College as part of the class of 2008, and will arrive as a first-year student this Fall (2004). - AR
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