Tony Award-winning actor and singer Sutton Foster is taking some time between her stage and screen duties to embark on a short tour of musical performances, which includes a stop in Philadelphia March 3 at Merriam Theater.
Sutton is known for her roles in Broadway productions like “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (for which she won a Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in 2002),”Anything Goes,” “Little Women” and “Young Frankenstein.”
Foster said her solo performances stick close to her musical-theater background, while incorporating some of her other musical influences.
“I feel a responsibility to definitely touch on the things that people know me best from: Broadway,” she said. “But I want to introduce audiences to who I am as a musical artist so I pull from a lot of folk music, songs from my childhood and jazz standards. So it’s an eclectic evening but it’s also representative of who I am as a musical artist beyond the characters that you see on Broadway.”
Having already established herself in the worlds of theater and music, Foster has also been able to launch a successful television career, including as the lead on the TV Land series “Younger.”
Foster said managing a successful career on three fronts is both demanding and exciting.
“I’m definitely juggling quite a bit now,” she said. “The television aspect of my career is something new that has changed dramatically in the last five years. It’s something that I hope will open me up to a larger audience. It’s changed my career in many ways because now people know me from TV and not from Broadway. I don’t know if one takes priority over another; I hope to be able to give the same amount of energy to all of them. But I give priority to the thing that is in front of me. ‘Younger’ wrapped in December and we don’t start again until June. So right now my energy is going into a lot of concert work.”
On “Younger,” currently in its second season, Foster plays a 40-year-old recently divorced mother who has to go back into the workforce to support herself and her daughter. She gets a job in publishing, starting at the bottom, mostly because the people there think she’s 26 and she doubts they would hire her if they knew her real age.
Foster said she didn’t realize the underlying social statement the show was making at first.
“I haven’t experienced ageism in my career yet,” she said. “I’m going to turn 41 in a few months. I’ve never had to deal with ageism directly. I know it exists. When I read the script, I saw it as a fantasy. Like, ‘Oooh, what would it be like to relive that time of my life?’ Like ‘Freaky Friday.’ When I started doing press for the show, people kept asking me about ageism and the statement we were making and I was like, ‘Whoa, yeah right.’ I started feeling feelings that I had never had before, thinking about my own career and navigating getting older and what that means for women. There is a reality to that and on the show we are addressing it in a dramedy form. I don’t think the whole intent of the show is to make this political statement, but all I can talk about is my own personal experience of how I’d like to navigate my own career. We will see. Talk to me in 10 years and I might have a different opinion about it. As of right now I feel like my career is more exciting than it has ever been. I’m actually looking forward to the opportunities I will have as a 40-year-old and in my 50s, 60s and 70s.”
On the show, Foster’s character. Liza, is best friends with Maggie, an out lesbian. Maggie is the first person to encourage her to keep lying about her age in order to keep her job.
Apparently, we were the first to point out that bit of irony to Foster.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard about that,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ve addressed that yet. That’s very funny. It’s a new concept for me. That’s what I love about the show. We have openly gay characters, but yet my character is the one that is in the closet.”
Sutton Foster performs 8 p.m. March 3 at Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999 or visit www.suttonfoster.com.