Sutton Foster on the Importance of Being Prepared

Actress Sutton Foster

“A lot of people say, ‘What’s more important: acting, singing or dancing?’ And I say, always acting.” – Sutton Foster

Every actor dreams of becoming an overnight sensation, but few get that opportunity because it takes years (decades?) of hard work. But one actress that did become something of an overnight sensation is Sutton Foster, who went from a member of ensembles and an understudy in various Broadway musicals to starring in the lead of Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002. Speaking with CBS Sunday Morning, Sutton explained how she capitalized on the opportunity when she received the phone call of a lifetime.

Originally, Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth was to star in the lead role with Foster as her understudy. However, Chenoweth dropped out. When another actress turned down the role, producers decided to move forward with Foster as the lead actress. Foster recalls the phone call a week before the first preview from director Michael Mayer, saying, “He said that the woman playing Millie has left the show, and the role of Millie is yours if you want it. I was on the other line with the boyfriend at the time, and I was, like, ‘What?’ And, like, clicked off with Michael Mayer, went back to the boyfriend, ‘I have to call you back!'”

Sutton Foster: “Sometimes I won’t even find a character until I put on the costume”

Foster went on to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and she’s especially proud that she seized the opportunity when it was presented to her. She says, “One of the things that I’m most proud of is that the opportunity came, and I was ready, meaning I was prepared, I knew my stuff, I worked really hard, and I stepped in.”

Of all the skills that Foster displays on Broadway, she points as acting as the most important. She explains, “A lot of people say, ‘What’s more important: acting, singing or dancing?’ And I say, always acting. ‘Cause singing without acting is just noise. Dancing without acting is just arm movement. I don’t feel like I’m just moving around and doing, like, fancy footwork. Same thing can go with singing; someone can sing super-high notes, but if it’s not based in any reality or any purpose, then it’s just showboating.”

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