By Angela Barbuti
You may have seen Sutton Foster sprawled across MTA buses in the ad campaign for Bunheads, her new show on ABC Family. Sutton herself hasn’t even seen them yet, but has had “many, many” friends send pictures to her. This is because after 15 years in New York City and two Tony Awards for performances in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes, she recently moved to California. This leap to television with the show Bunheads, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, fits perfectly into Foster’s plan of having a varied career.
Our Town: You were born in Georgia and began dancing at age 4. Did you always know you wanted to be in show business?
Foster: I loved dancing, singing and being in plays. That was what I was spending all my extracurricular time doing. My brother is an actor as well. It was really something we both did for fun, and then we were both able to make careers out of it.
What was your Broadway debut?
A revival of Grease in ’95. I had been doing the national tour and I came in as a replacement for Sandy. My brother was in the show at the time as well. For my first bow on a Broadway stage, I was standing next to my brother.
At 25, you went from being an understudy to playing the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie. What was going through your mind when they asked you to play the starring role?
I thought they had lost their minds. I started crying, saying, “You’re making a mistake!” I was just so young and naïve. They believed in me and saw something that I didn’t even know was in me. They took a chance on a nobody and it changed my life.
You earned a Tony Award for that role and also for your work in Anything Goes. Where do you keep your Tonys?
[Laughs] Right now they’re in storage! Isn’t that horrible? Because I’m out here and thought it might be weird to take them with me. They’re in a storage bin, wrapped up very, very well with bubble wrap.
What is your favorite Broadway song to sing?
“Blow, Gabriel, Blow” from Anything Goes. Almost every single night, when I’d sing that iconic Cole Porter song, I’d be saying, “I cannot believe I’m playing this role on Broadway.”
Do your Broadway friends feel you abandoned them by going on television?
[Laughs] No! Everyone thinks that; it’s so funny! I don’t think it ever has to be one or the other. I hope to have a very varied career. I don’t think that by coming to TV, my theater career is over.
The season finale of Bunheads is Aug. 20. What has this season of filming been like?
It’s been amazing; one of the favorite jobs I’ve ever done. It’s been hard, but incredible. I’m not just saying that. I wake up every day really happy.
You’ve relocated to California to tape Bunheads. Are you planning on moving back to New York one day?
I’m out here for now. I’m in the process of deciding what I want to do. I really love the lifestyle out here; it’s been a great change of pace for me. But New York will always be a part of my life as well. I have a feeling I’ll end up spending time in both areas.
What are your favorite places in New York City?
I love Bloomingdale’s. On the seventh floor is the restaurant 40 Carrots. They have the best frozen yogurt—plain and coffee with granola—so good. You have to go with someone else though because the portions are so ginormous. One of my favorite things to do is walk through Central Park. I played at Café Carlyle a couple summers ago and would walk from Columbus Circle to Café Carlyle to the park. I also love the spa at the Mandarin Oriental up on the 36th floor. It’s just a beautiful spot.
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