Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Dance Party: Foster Care

I love this gal's story. After spending several years in the ensembles of various Broadway musicals (Grease!, Will Rogers Follies, Annie, Les Miz) she was plucked from the chorus of Thoroughly Modern Millie during its pre-Broadway try-out in San Diego. The show's original star was Kristin Chenoweth (check out her Dance Party here, it's a hoot), who nurtured the title role through the workshop process only to bow out to film her own sitcom (which flopped). Chenoweth was replaced by Erin Dilly, who was herself replaced by this week's Dance Party star, Sutton Foster. (Don't feel too bad for Dilly, she went on to create Truly Scrumptious in the Broadway Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and played Cinderella in the 2002 revival of Into the Woods).

But back to the show at hand, Thoroughly Modern Millie. Based on the 1967 film musical starring Julie Andrews (which has already appeared on the Dance Party, go here to watch Andrews and co-star Mary Tyler Moore hoof in the elevator), the stage version had a pretty long gestation period before seeing the light of day. Both Beatrice Arthur and Pat Carroll were involved in various workshops of the show, playing the role created, hilariously, on film by Beatrice Lillie (that role, the villainous Mrs. Meers, ultimately went to Harriet Harris, who won the Tony).

Our girl Sutton won the Tony, too, for what many consider to be one of THE break-out performances of the decade. After Millie, Foster went on to create roles in Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Shrek the Musical, all of which earned her additional Tony nominations. She played yodeling lab assistant Inga in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, and will be headlining the Encores! staging of Sondheim's cult flop Anyone Can Whistle next month in New York. Despite all this success, she remains virtually unknown outside musical theatre circles.

She is another of those Broadway stars who would have become household names by now, if such things still occurred. They don't, so she, and her brother Hunter Foster, who also has much musical theatre cred, will remain below most people's radar until they snag a leading role in a film or TV series.

But not here at the Friday Dance Party! Below, enjoy one of Sutton's showstoppers from her Tony-winning performance as Millie. This sequence was broadcast on the Tony awards, which explains why the entire cast trots out to take a bow at the end of the song. The number is one of many which were written for the stage show, as much of the film score consisted of old standards which were jettisoned for music more appropriate for the story. I am a sucker for tap, which is yet another reason I am attracted to numbers like this:

Sutton Foster turned 35 years old yesterday.