“An Evening with Sutton Foster” at Merriam Theater was a perfectly spent Friday night.

-Brenda Hillegas

An actual Broadway princess came to Philadelphia last Friday night (seriously, Sutton Foster was the original Princess Fiona on Broadway in Shrek the Musical). The two-time Tony winner perfected Broadway roles such as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Inga in Young Frankenstein, and so many others. You also probably know Sutton from hit television shows like Younger (heading into a 7th season and making it the longest running original series for the TV Land network) and Bunheads. No matter why you know and love her, one thing is certain- Sutton Foster has a huge number of fans and that was obvious on Friday when she performed to a full house at the Merriam Theater.

Sutton elegantly entered the stage in a beautiful red, floral dress and immediately wowed the audience with a song medley encouraging us with her most important piece of advice- say yes! Next up was another medley, an homage to NYC, featuring songs from musicals she has been a part of- Thoroughly Modern MillieAnnie and Little Women. The entire evening was filled with stylings like this, showcasing her favorite songs, composers, and Broadway roles.

Joining Sutton on stage was Michael Rafter, her pianist as well as long time music director and collaborator. He’s worked with her on Broadway in Thoroughly Modern Millie as well as on her own albums. I really enjoyed their Cole Porter pieces on Friday night; Sutton performed the witty Porter songs “Give Him the Ooh La La” and “Don’t Look at Me That Way”. Though the Merriam Theater is a fairly large venue, seeing Sutton with just a microphone and pianist gave her show a very intimate cabaret club vibe. As amazing as she is alone, having Michael Rafter on stage for the show really enhanced the atmosphere and performance.

Other stand out moments of the night included “The Stars and the Moon” from one of Sutton’s favorite composers, Jason Robert Brown, a selection from Into the Woods (she played a part in the recent Hollywood Bowl three-night performance of the musical), and bringing Broadway’s Megan McGinnis on stage for a couple of duets. Sutton and Megan were both part of the original Broadway cast of Little Women in 2005.

Shows like this one, An Evening with Sutton Foster, are a great opportunity to get to know the person behind the music and find out what songs meant the most to them throughout their life and career. In particular, she dedicated “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma! to her high school drama teacher, Rick Bodick, who came all the way from Troy, Michigan to see her perform on Broadway many times. Sadly, he passed away this past summer. John Denver’s “Sunshine” was also a sweet tribute to Sutton’s late mother, and she made us laugh by having us envision a young Sutton listening to Denver’s eight-track tape while playing with Donny and Marie dolls on a shag carpet. It’s also easy to picture Sutton in her various Broadway roles as she sings selected songs from those shows. She’s funny, animated, and really puts her personal charm into each number.

If you missed your chance to see this vibrant performance, there are plenty of upcoming shows at the Kimmel Center just like this one. Not only is there an amazing season of Broadway musicals and jazz performances to enjoy, a packed calendar of events is available for you to peruse on the Kimmel Center’s website. Truly, there is something for everyone. Take a look here to browse by genre.

I look forward to Sutton Foster’s return to Philadelphia and I hope it’s sooner rather than later. I’m also incredibly hopeful Santa brings me tickets to see Sutton with Hugh Jackman in The Music Man revival which debuts on Broadway next fall! Until either of those things happen, I’ll be listening to her albums on repeat and reminisce about her incredible show here last Friday night.

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