Review: ‘BSO: An Evening with Sutton Foster’ at The Music Center at Strathmore

It may be chilly outside, but Sutton Foster was most warmly welcomed as she performed tonight, Thursday, February 18, 2016 at the Music Center at Strathmore with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jack Everly. A true triple threat as in the golden days of Broadway, Foster enchanted the audience as she sang, acted, and danced those old standards as well as some new favorites.

Foster, best known for her stunning Broadway performances, has received two Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. In addition to her work on stage, Foster is the current star of TV Land’s Younger and has also been seen in hit shows such as Bunheads, Psych, and Royal Pains.

Sutton Foster. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.
Sutton Foster. Photo courtesy of The Music Center at Strathmore.

She has performed as a solo artist both all over the US as well as internationally. Joining her as she performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra were Michael Rafter, her musical director and pianist, Kevin Kuhn on guitar, and Clint de Ganon on drums.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the able baton of Jack Everly, opened the night with Cole Porter’s overture for Anything Goes.With a jaunty, carefree air, it set the tone for the rest of the evening, as Sutton Foster came out and immediately launched into a playful and flirty “Anything Goes.”

Followed by “I Get a Kick Out of You” (also from Anything Goes), the contrast between the brassy belt of “Anything Goes” and the sweeter, smoother tones of “I Get a Kick Out of You” really showed off Foster’s masterful control of her voice. She easily hits those high notes, and can hold them forever without losing any power.

Joined at one point by her “Younger” co-star Nico Tortorella, Foster and Tortorella sang “Fit as a Fiddle” from Singin’ in the Rain while tap-dancing (and even, for Tortorella, doing a headstand!) and had the audience in stitches.  Similarly, Foster’s soft-shoe during a medley of “If I Were a Bell” and Singin’ In the Rain made it clear that she’s lost none of that Broadway pizzazz that always delights when she’s on the Great White Way.

Foster sang a lovely and emotional cover of John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” dedicated to her mother, and showed that she’s not just a brassy belter, but able to convey the sensitivity and quiet intensity of less showy numbers. Likewise, her intensity and passion, especially during “It All Fades Away” by Jason Robert Brown’s Tony awardfrom the musical The Bridges of Madison County, blew the audience away, resulting in long sustained applause.

Joined later in the program by her good friend Megan McGinnis, their duet (“Flight”, by composer Craig Carnelia) was one of the highlights of the concert.Their perfectly blended voices made it difficult at points to tell there were two people singing!

McGinnis, currently starring in the off-Broadway production Daddy Long Legs, also sang a solo (“Neverland” from Peter Pan) showing off her clear-as-a-bell voice and earnestness that worked so well in her duet with Foster.

The highlight of the night though was Foster’s rendition of the show-stopping eleven o’clock number from Gypsy: “Rose’s Turn” (especially coming right after the BSO’s beautifully clear and dynamic performance of the Gypsy overture). Many Broadway divas have sung this song and tried to make it their own, but Foster is one of the few who actually succeeds. Her acting and singing of this number was a master class, eschewing needless histrionics while still conveying the character’s breakdown and anger. It was fantastic.

Between the clarity and power of Foster’s voice, her masterful acting, and skillful dancing, she had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. The DC area is lucky to get lots of fine Broadway artists come and perform, but Sutton Foster is one of the absolute best.

She may have decamped to television for the time being, but tonight Sutton Foster showed she’s lost none of the appeal and talent that always make her a must-see whenever she takes the stage.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 20-minute intermission.

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BSO: An Evening with Sutton Foster played at The Musical Center at Strathmore on Thursday, February 18, 2016. From tomorrow through Sunday, February 21, 2016, Sutton Foster performs with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall – 1212 Cathedral Street, in Baltimore, MD.For tickets, call the box office at (410) 783-8000, or purchase them online.