Okay, to round our our "Sutton Foster Trilogy," here she is singing the bejeepers out the song, "Gimme Gimme" from the show that made her a start, Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Keep in mind when you watch this, that she really pretty much hadn't done anything before. But more than that, she wasn't even hired as the original star. In fact, she wasn't even the second choice.
Initially, when Thoroughly Modern Millie was in workshop production, Kristin Chenoweth was playing the lead role. And when the show went down to the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego for his tryout, Chenoweth was expected to star. But she got her TV sitcom set up, and dropped out.
Yet even then, Sutton Foster wasn't the actress signed to replace her. It was Erin Dilly. Foster was just in the chorus, and the understudy. Then, only days before the show was set to finish rehearsals and have its first public performance, Dilly left the show and Foster replaced her.
I have no idea why. Erin Dilly is a very talented actress who's starred on Broadway and been in movies. She's probably most recognized by audiences for the film Julie and Julia, where she plays the book agent who tests all of Julia Child's recipes and falls in love with her book and pushes for it to be published. But she also starred on Broadway in the musical of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as the original 'Truly Scrumptious," and in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods she replaced the original star when leaving the cast as 'Cinderella.' And in the recent Encore! production of Fiorello!, she had a major role as 'Dora.' So, it's not like she's doesn't have significant talent and has had notable roles. Yet days before opening in its world premiere tryout, Erin Dilly left the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the producers took a big gamble hiring this totally unknown young girl, named Sutton Foster.
The thing is, even at that, she was only hired to play the role during the show's tryout. The producers still had in mind looking for a star to take over the role. Except after seeing Sutton Foster on stage before the audience getting blown away each night they took the second gamble, and hired her to stay with role when the show went to Broadway.
Without question, it was a huge gamble for producers to hire an unknown to star in a major, very expensive musical. In every other way, when you watch this video, it was probably the easiest decision in the world to make. Keep in mind, that this is a neophyte performing. I believe the proper word is, "Yipes!" And -- "Oh, so that's what it's like when a star is born."
And not shockingly, Sutton Foster went on to win the 2002 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. As I mentioned the other day, it was this evening and acceptance speech that brought Sutton Foster to my attention -- and endeared her to me, not just (or even mostly) for her performance, but because she thanked her acting teacher Joan Rosenfeld, who I went to kindergartern and grade school with.
(Joan has done some acting of her own, and it was a treat when I've seen her on, I believe, a couple episodes of Law & Order. I recall that in one, she played an office manager who provides the detectives with important information for solving the crime. It made the episode...)
By the way, when you see the other actress nominations, there are two for the musical, Urinetown. It's worth nothing that Sutton Foster's brother, Hunter, was in that show. Talented family, that.
But all that asides, this is Ms. Foster's moment, kindly giving thanks to a little help from her friends.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor