Friday, April 8, 2011

Foster's "Top!"

Think back with me, if you will.

Back before grad school, back before the Four I Adore, back before Chick-fil-A served the breakfast burritos with which I am, admittedly, obsessed - way back then, I was a theatre reviewer. Well, that's probably overstating things. I went to the theatre and wrote about what I saw, and metro-Atlanta's Gwinnett Daily Post was good enough to publish whatever drivel I had written.

You with me? Good.

So, back then, I reviewed a certain show. Many of you have probably seen this show. In fact, most of you - MOM - probably love this show, and with good reason: Les Miserables is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption ever written for the musical stage. Its entirely-sung story is fool-proof, and I think we can all agree that this lyrical libretto, dripping as it is with pathos, makes it impossible for any company - regardless their level of professionalism - to mess up.


Don't kid yourself there, Jean Valjean.

In the late 1990's, a National Company of "Les Mis" toured through Atlanta's Fox Theatre. I was there, a pen in one hand and playbill in the other, ready to write the notes on which I'd base my review.

The curtain went up, and immediately, my spirits went down. I quickly realized that this wasn't the same "Les Mis" I'd seen so many times before. Instead of heart-wrenching, this lifeless production was heart-less. In fact, if you've seen the show, you'll know how epically the production failed when I tell you that, at a certain pivotal moment in Act I, I was squirming in my seat, screaming to myself, "Fantine, go ahead and cut your friggin' hair. In fact, I think I'll just cut the loss of the time I've wasted here, file my story, and get on with my life, because girl, you and your little cast mates have killed 'The Dream I Dreamed.'"

So much for "If you can't say something nice ...," huh?

Actually, I DID say something nice about this "Les" that so dreadfully "Mis"sed the mark. Its one (and ONLY) redeeming quality was the performance of its Eponine. Brilliant, beautiful, and heart-breaking, Sutton Foster's take on "'ponine" was the one positive part of an otherwise negative review. I came home knowing that hers was a star on the rise.

At least I was right about something.

From her terrific turn in that terrible tour, Foster's gone on to a Tony Award winning performance in the title role of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Among other Broadway smashes, she's also starred in The Drowsy Chaperone ("oh, I love it so much"), and, as of last nite, she is tearing it up as Reno Sweeney in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes.

Ben Brantley is a theatre critic whose reviews carry exponentially more weight than mine ever did. He agrees with my assessment of Broadway's brightest light. In his New York Times review of Anything Goes, Brantley wrote:

"Who needs a brass section when you’ve got Sutton Foster? ... When she leads the show-stopping 'Blow, Gabriel, Blow,' you figure that if no horn-tooting archangel appears, it’s only because he’s afraid of the competition."

And who could blame him?

Sutton Foster, you amaze me and inspire me and make me so thankful I didn't skip the second act of that miserable "Les Mis."

In other words, Girl? "You're the Top."


  1. First I am obsessed with the chicken burrito as well! When prego I ate them at least 3x a week. The ladies at the drive thru know. Now I try to limit it to once a week but I make myself feel better b/c they have to be healthier than the chicken biscuit, right? Not much of a theater follower but we have some good friends who used to live in NY and they named their now 4 yr old girl Sutton as the Sutton you write about. They saw her in something there and loved her and her name! Small world!

  2. She is the most insanely talented individual I have ever seen - LOVE ME SOME SUTTON:)

    AND some chicken burritos:)