Sutton Foster is once again the toast of Broadway after receiving rave reviews last week for headlining the second rialto revival of Cole Porter‘s “Anything Goes.” Taking on a role previously played by Broadway belters Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone, Foster wowed the critics as the tough-talking Reno Sweeney. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said that Foster was, “both goofy and sexy, shruggingly insouciant and rigorously polished, Ms. Foster’s performance embodies the essence of escapist entertainment in the 1930s.” And Variety’s Steven Suskin proclaimed: “She doesn’t just deliver those Cole Porter hits, she knocks ’em out of the park.”
Foster’s rise to the top reads like something out of an old MGM musical. Ten years ago, during the out-of-town tryout for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in San Diego, she was plucked from the chorus to replace Erin Dilly in the title role. Pinning the hopes of a $10 million production on a rookie paid off as the critics welcomed her to Broadway and audiences lined up to see the talented tyro. The show was crowned Best Musical at the 2002 Tony Awards and Foster won Best Musical Actress.
Since then, she has contended three more times in this category at the Tonys. Were she to land a fifth nomination she would be tied with Gwen Verdon in third place for most bids in this race. And, at just 36, Foster may well match the six nods by Bernadette Peters for second place and could even catch up to Chita Rivera with her leading seven leading lady nominations.
Foster’s strongest competition in the category will likely come from newcomer Patina Miller in “Sister Act.” A finalist for Jennifer Hudson‘s Oscar-winning role in “Dreamgirls,” Miller’s Broadway debut follows her Olivier-nominated performance in this tuner. If Miller wins, it would mark the second time Foster has lost to a performance originated on film by Whoopi Goldberg. Back in 2006, she contended for “The Drowsy Chaperone” but was edged out by LaChanze in “The Color Purple.” The irony is that Goldberg was one of the producers of “Millie” which got her the Tony Award that elevated her to EGOT status.
Foster was also nominated in 2005 for “Little Women” but lost to Victoria Clark for “The Light In the Piazza” and in 2009 for “Shrek the Musical” but was bested by Alice Ripley in “Next to Normal.”
Other potential Best Musical Actress contenders this season include Donna Murphy, a two-time winner of this race (“Passion,” 1994; “The King and I,” 1996) for “The People In the Picture”; Beth Leavel, who won Featured Musical Actress for “Drowsy Chaperone,” in “Baby It’s You”; two-time nominee Sherie Renee Scott for “Women on the Verga of a Nervous Breakdown” and newcomer Rose Hemingway in “How to Succeed In Business without Really Trying.”
Vote in our poll to the right of this item as to whether Foster will win again.