Posted on March 2, 2018 at 11:48 pm
Sutton Foster is a star. Broadway musical performers generally drive me crazy because I find they fall into one of two camps – either they’re insanely proficient, skilled beyond imagining, I-went-to-Carnegie-Mellon kind of dazzling where they can do anything you ask them and more, but they’re strangely cold, like they’re so busy pushing their talent out into the world that they can’t take anything in; or the other version is they walk on stage and somehow you know them, you can’t take your eyes off them, they’re drawing from some deep well of truth that you’ve never seen before, but they don’t really have any technique, and they can’t be guaranteed to hit any of the notes written on the page. What makes Sutton Foster a star is that she can do essentially anything you ask of her, do it better than you’ve ever seen it done, and at the same time she’s warm and approachable and feels like your best friend the minute she enters the room.
I’ve known Sutton for a while, but we’d never gotten to work together. Finally, due to a wonderful confluence of events, I was able to bribe her into coming down to SubCulture and lighting up the entire Lower East Side for a night. Why she picked this particular night, I will never know – one week before, she’d done an enormous reunion concert of Thoroughly Modern Millie, she then spent three days recording the vocals for her next album, and then she spent the entire week before our concert beginning filming for the fifth season of her TV show, “Younger.” Oh, and she has an almost-one-year-old daughter to raise. But there she was, belting her way through five of my songs with all the confidence and musicality anyone could ask for. I tell you, she’s a miracle.
The craziest Alternate Reality moment came midway through the show. The backstory is that three years ago, I started writing a musical based on the movie A League of Their Own, and all of us on the creative team were secretly creating the role of Dottie for Sutton Foster. But I never quite found my way in to the material, so I walked away, and have had an entire act of the show sitting unloved on a hard drive ever since. When Sutton and I got together to figure out which songs to do, I suddenly remembered my score for League, and I pulled out this song, orchestrated it, and (whole-tone harp glissando here) I got the thrilling treat of hearing what it would have sounded like if we’d gotten Sutton to do the show! (And the audience saved about $130 apiece!)
Sutton also brilliantly did a song we cut from The Bridges of Madison County meant to be sung by Francesca’s trampy older sister; a wonderful version of “I Can Do Better Than That”; and two of my songs that I’m proud to say are on her new album, “Stars and the Moon” and, in an arrangement by Michael Rafter, “It All Fades Away.” I’ve been waiting such a long time to make music with Sutton, and it was well worth the wait. I hope hope hope we can do it again soon!
We’ve all been on a crazy emotional rollercoaster lately with the way things are going in this country, so I made sure to start the show with something uplifting and ridiculous: Lee Dorsey’s rollicking New Orleans classic “Ya-Ya,” featuring Fiddle Freak Reynolds and Guitar Goon Sieger, and I was thrilled to feature the string quartet on several songs from the new album.
Speaking of the new album: we will be mastering this Monday, and aiming for a release on Ghostlight Deluxe in May! Stay tuned for more info!
Next month, I’m thrilled to announce that four monstrously talented women will take the stage with me, for an evening that I am calling “Black Women Will Save The World.” Because they will. Come out on March 12 to see Andrea Jones-Sojola, Nova Payton, Patrice E. Turner and NaTasha Yvette Williams, and of course my bearded and balding band.
Ya Ya (music and lyrics by Lee Dorsey, Clarence Lewis, Morgan Robinson and Morris Levy, 1961)
This Is Not Over Yet from Parade (1998)
SUTTON: Stars and the Moon from Songs For A New World (1995)
SUTTON: He Forgave Me cut from The Bridges of Madison County (2014)
SUTTON: One Summer from A League of Their Own (2015)
Hallowed Ground (2016)
Fifty Years Long (2015)
Song About Your Gun (2016)
SUTTON: I Can Do Better Than That from The Last Five Years (2002)
SUTTON: It All Fades Away from The Bridges of Madison County (2014)
PIANO & VOCALS: JRB
VOCALS: Sutton Foster
VIOLIN I: Todd Reynolds
VIOLIN II: Katherine Livolsi-Landau
VIOLA: Danielle Farina
CELLO: Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf
ELECTRIC & ACOUSTIC GUITAR: Gary Sieger
ELECTRIC & ACOUSTIC BASS: Randy Landau
DRUMS: Jamie Eblen