June 29--When Sutton Foster was performing as Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes," which won the busy Broadway actress her second Tony Award, she posted drawings on her dressing-room mirror with messages like "You rock" and "Badass" and "You're awesome."
She says she would read those before going out on stage and think "Yes, yes, I am, I am. I believe in myself."
Foster, 38, has believed in herself enough to become one of the most acclaimed Broadway triple threats of the past decade, winning a Tony for "Thoroughly Modern Millie," then acting, singing and dancing through "Little Women," "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Young Frankenstein" and "Shrek, the Musical."
But beyond being a performing star, she's also a visual artist, and she says the uplifting themes have moved from dressing-room artwork to being part of an art exhibit of whimsical pen-and-ink drawings.
Foster will perform on the Cape for the first time in three concerts Thursday and Friday as part of the Broadway @ The Art House series in Provincetown. After her final show, she'll walk down Commercial Street for a reception at A Gallery for an exhibit (up Thursday through July 9) of her artwork and that of her close friend and former Broadway dresser Julien Havard.
"I'm so excited about doing both of them. It's going to be a really cool experience," she says in a phone interview.
Foster gave a tearful shout-out to her longtime friend Havard, and his move to Cape Cod, in her 2011 Tony speech for "Anything Goes." Foster visited him in Hyannis that summer and their artwork was on display together at the Guyer Barn gallery.
She's excited to show work created since then in the "Together" exhibit in Provincetown. Havard "is incredibly inspiring," she says.
"We end up sort of inspiring each other."
Foster is also working with a friend at The Art House: Seth Rudetsky who is accompanist and series host. They've worked together before, too -- in a one-night benefit concert of "They're Playing Our Song" for the Actors Fund in 2010, and he played an audition pianist in the Season 1 finale last winter of her ABC Family TV series "Bunheads." They first did this sing-and-chat-style live show together in March in New Orleans.
"The thing I love the most about Seth is that most of the time I don't know what's going to happen," she says. "He's very spontaneous."
All she knows about their concerts is that Rudetsky will "walk through" her care and she will "sing songs."
"We have three shows in Provincetown, and each one will probably end up being different."
While Foster also has done a series of concerts nationwide of new material, Foster enjoys the walk-through-her-past format with Rudetsky. One favorite show she mentions is "Les Miserables"; she played yearning, doomed Eponine on the national tour more than a decade ago.
"That's really fun to revisit," she says. "I probably won't play that role again, so it's fun to have an outlet to sing those songs."
The concerts and exhibit also come at a time when Foster is looking for a diversion. After an award-winning debut season of "Bunheads," in which Foster plays a Las Vegas showgirl who settles in a small town as a dance teacher, ABC Family has waited much longer than usual to decide whether to renew the series for a second season. Industry reports say network officials want to see how successful new summer series are before deciding about "Bunheads."
"I'm still waiting, and I feel like I'm struggling with 'limbo-itis,'" she says. "I'm in this standstill, so it's fun to be able to work on other things while waiting to see what my future will be. I can't pursue other things."
Foster hadn't been thinking about moving from stage to TV, from New York to Los Angeles, until TV writer Amy Sherman-Palladino visited her backstage one night after "Anything Goes." Sherman-Palladino's "Gilmore Girls" is one of Foster's "favorite shows of all time" and the actress was thrilled to talk to the writer, in a conversation in which a new TV pilot was casually mentioned.
"Three weeks later, I got a call from my agent that she wanted me to star and I said 'WHAT?!!' It literally came out of nowhere. I massively fan-girled on her. I never in a million years thought I'd work with her."
The focus of the series convinced her: "It involved dance, teaching and young people growing up, all these things that meant something to me, so it seemed like a perfect fit." Doing a TV series was a huge learning experience, and after that season of working together, she says with a tinge of awe that she and Sherman-Palladino are "super-close."
"I never thought we'd BE FRIENDS."
The writer is known, in both TV shows, for writing rapid-fire, quirky dialogue with numerous references from all types of pop culture. The style is tough to conquer, but Foster says, "It was such a gift, too. All I want to do is honor her and do it well. I spent a lot of time memorizing. I never experienced so much brain-melt in my life, but it was all worth it."
A second season might bring brother Hunter Foster back to TV, too. He's also a Broadway actor, and he played her character Michelle's brother Scotty on a few episodes of "Bunheads." Cape theater audiences know Hunter Foster and wife Jennifer Cody from several shows they've done -- separately and together -- at Cape Playhouse in Dennis.
"They absolutely love it " they loved spending the summers there," Sutton Foster says. "For us New Yorkers, the Cape is a wonderful escape."
(c)2013 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)
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