How Sutton Foster Performed in the Funny Girl Concert and Thoroughly Modern Millie In the Same Night

Seth Rudetsky   How Sutton Foster Performed in the Funny Girl Concert and Thoroughly Modern Millie In the Same Night
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares stories about Foster, his trip to Mexico with Gavin Creel, and more.
Sutton Foster in <i> Thoroughly Modern Millie</i>
Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie Joan Marcus

I’m back in the freezing NYC weather after four days in the delicious Puerto Vallarta heat. However, I will be getting sun damage very soon because this weekend I am going to hot/dry Scottsdale, Arizona for a show with Sutton Foster on Friday night and then to hot/humid New Orleans on Saturday for a show with Christine Ebersole. I haven’t done a show with Sutton in around two years so I’m very excited to hear her signature sass again.

Here’s one of my favorite Sutton experiences: Back in 2002, I wanted to follow my 2001 concert of Dreamgirls for the Actors Fund with a concert of Funny Girl. I decided that because there were so many amazing songs, we should have a different person play Fanny Brice in every scene…that way there’d be an opportunity to have lots of amazing women star in the concert, and I also wanted a chance to see people play Fanny who wouldn’t normally be cast (like Lillias White—watch my deconstruction of her here—and Kristin Chenoweth!). Anyhoo, Sutton had just won the Tony Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie and was one of the hottest new Broadway stars. I thought “I’m The Greatest Star” was super appropriate giving her recent super-stardom (plus I knew she’d sound great). Well, a few weeks before the concert we found out that even though Thoroughly Modern Millie had no shows on Monday, they were suddenly adding one because AT&T had bought out the theatre for a special event. Yes, Sutton had to star in her own Broadway show on the same night as the concert. It seemed an impossible situation to remedy but this is where my living on the edge/A.D.D. pays off. I’m constantly cutting things extremely close so I decided we could apply my theory—that always causes other people around me to have heart attacks—to this situation.

Our show was slated to start at 7:30. I knew that meant it would start at 7:40. Sutton’s song was right after the overture and “If A Girl Isn’t Pretty” around 13 minutes in. Most Broadway theaters are all only a few blocks from each other and our Funny Girl was in the New Amsterdam on 42nd and Millie was at the Marquis on 45th. I knew Sutton could sing her song and get to her theatre in time for the opening number if it was timed perfectly. Luckily, she agreed! There were two additional ways she and our director, Peter Flynn, thought of to expedite it even more: First, Sutton went to her theatre and put on her opening number wig from Millie so she’d be ready to go when she got to her theatre (and that hairstyle was thankfully appropriate for Fanny Brice!). Second, the New Amsterdam is one of those theatres where the stage door is around the corner. That meant she’d exit on 41st and have to walk five blocks to her theatre. Well, the solution was to change her exit at the end of the song; instead of going off stage left, she simply ran into the audience, up the aisle and out the doors to 42nd Street! It saved an entire block! Well, she wound up sounding amazing in our show and getting to her show on time. Here she is in the concert and maybe we’ll do this song in Scottsdale! (Get your tickets here.)

Sutton Foster in <i>Thoroughly Modern Millie</i>
Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie Joan Marcus

As for Christine Ebersole, I’m very excited that composer Scott Frankel is going to be at the concert in New Orleans, too, and will take over some playing from Grey Gardens and War Paint t prevent me getting tendinitis! Speaking of Ebersole, here’s a video I just found…it’s one of the things where I have only the vaguest memory of the performance. It’s from a Rosie O’Donnell Cruise around ten years ago and, not surprisingly, Christine sounds as amazing then as she does now! (For you Grey Gardens fans, she begins as Little Edie). Watch here!

Come see us in New Orleans! (Tickets here.)

OK, now back to Puerto Vallarta. Gavin Creel and I were there to perform at a gala dinner for SETAC, which is an HIV/AIDS clinic in Puerto Vallarta to which Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS grants money every year. We sat with the head of the clinic and we were so impressed with what they’re doing. A little while after they opened, they got their first HIV positive pregnant woman as a client. If you don’t know, a baby doesn’t get HIV when it’s in utero; the baby seroconverts either from the birth through the birth canal or from its mother’s milk, which contains HIV. Well, the clinic now has a system in place where any HIV women that comes is set up for a C-section and then they provide milk for the babies. They’ve had dozens of mothers and not one baby has HIV! Really amazing! You can donate to them here.

At the gala dinner, the fabulous voice impersonator Jimmy James appeared, and he then invited us to his amazing show. He was so great! He told us that he spent the first part of his career solely as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. But, he retired her in 1997 so he could open himself up to doing other people. My absolute favorite he performed at this show was an imagined “Judy Garland Show” with guest star Billie Holiday. The duet was incredible!

Seth Rudetsky 12.10.18

He talked about doing Marilyn in the ’80s and about all the talk shows he was on (The Phil Donahue Show, Geraldo, etc.) and the time he was asked to fly to Boston to do the Nancy Merrill show. At that point, he felt drained from doing so many appearances so he told them he would only do it if he could sing totally nude under some satin sheets. They consulted amongst themselves and then, a little warily, gave him the go-ahead. To make them know that he wasn’t going to change his mind, he warned them he would only be bringing his Marilyn wig and her signature high heels… and nothing else! Well, they indeed let him do it…and it was brilliant. Jimmy showed it at his show and Gavin flipped out because it was so real. Watch!

Jimmy told us that when he was a young man in San Antonio, Texas (where he grew up) he would go to drag bars and think that he would know he made it if he ever recorded a song that drag queens lip sync’d to. Well, he has! His dance song “Fashionista” is lip sync’d everywhere (and was playing at the gym I was in the day after I saw his show). Watch this video…I love the “Vogue”-style rap in the middle!

James (not Jimmy James, James my husband!) was in L.A. having some meetings, as they say, and he met me and Gavin in Puerto Vallarta. We had the best time! Of course, Gavin’s prankster-ness came out. James and I asked him to take a pic of us on the beach and Gavin said yes and took my iPhone. It was taking him forever to get the shot and when I got my phone back, I found out why (see below).

Seth Rudetsky 12.10.18

Of course, I busted both he and James for their phone obsession by posting this video I call “Enjoying the Sunset.” Look!

We did get this photo, too.

Seth Rudetsky 12.10.18

Gavin is about to star opposite his pal Sara Bareilles for the month of January in Waitress and James and I are so excited to see them in it. Speaking of which, we met Gavin for breakfast and when we sat down he told us that he was off sugar and then listed the ill effects sugar can cause. I, of course, was mortified because I knew he must have seen me have two desserts the night before and felt he had no choice but to do an intervention. I started stammering that I usually have a low sugar intake and I was making an exception because “what happens in Puerto Vallarta, stays in Puerto Vallarta.” He again repeated the negative effects sugar can have on your body. Word-for-word. Suddenly, after hearing him repeat the exact same sentence he had said before, I realized that he wasn’t “off sugar”…he was practicing his lines from Waitress on us! Rude! In his first scene, the title character (Sara as Jenna) offers the doctor (Gavin as Pommatter) a pie and he tells her that he’s off sugar and what the negative effects are. Well, at least I know now when I can take a quick bathroom break during the show and not miss anything I haven’t heard.

In keeping with the theme of videos I’ve totally forgotten about, here’s Gavin sounding amazing when he was on my SiriusXM show.

Watch, enjoy, then peace out!

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