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Sutton Foster Is at Her Very Best in Latest Café Carlyle Show

The two-time Tony winner returns to the intimate space for two weeks with a deliriously wonderful concert.

Sutton Foster at the Café Carlyle, with Michael Rafter at the piano.
(© David Andrako)

I could listen to Sutton Foster sing for hours. And at the Café Carlyle, where she debuts her latest concert through June 29, you'll find out why. Her stint at the club comes at an auspicious, if not exhausting, time in her life. Her hit series Younger just finished filming its sixth season, which debuts on the TV Land channel tonight. Her daughter, Emily, is an enthusiastic and curious 2-year-old. And she's prepping for two major upcoming stage productions: Into the Woods at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, and The Music Man on Broadway opposite Hugh Jackman next year. But if she was tired, you'd never know — this effervescent and charming concert showcases Sutton Foster at her very, very best.

Foster's 70-minute set, accompanied by longtime musical director Michael Rafter, is a blend of songs focused around the idea of being optimistic and open to new challenges, even if you're afraid. Focusing less on greatest hits (don't go in expecting to hear "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie or "Astonishing" from Little Women) and more on the tracks from her 2018 album Take Me to the World, the show reflects the changes that we go through as we get older and the ways that major life events — like losing your mother before becoming one yourself — shape who we become.

Sutton Foster at the Café Carlyle, with Michael Rafter at the piano.
(© David Andrako)

This is especially evident in a showstopping one-two punch of Jason Robert Brown's "Stars and the Moon" and Stephen Sondheim's "Moments in the Woods" (a warm-up for her turn as the Baker's Wife in July). Foster breathes fresh life into both oft-performed standards, and really makes you remember how a truly great actor can communicate an enormous range of emotions through simple gestures, like a contented glance that suddenly becomes filled with longing. Her charming, quirky take on the intensely difficult latter selection almost made me book a plane ticket to LA.

A section devoted to Cole Porter also shows off her multifaceted skill set as a performer, with a torchy "C'est Magnifique" that becomes a vampy and coy "Give Him the Ooh-La-La." And she excels, as we all knew she would, on tried-and-true showtunes, like her opening medley of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Cockeyed Optimist," Sondheim's "Everybody Says Don't," and Kander and Ebb's "Say Yes," as well as a mash-up of "If I Were a Bell" from Guys and Dolls and "Singin' in the Rain." Some favorites from her past Carlyle sets, for instance — an "Anyone Can Whistle" that segues into "Being Alive" — has only gotten richer and deeper with age. It's preceded by her gorgeous take on John Denver's "Sunshine on My Shoulders," performed in tribute to her late mother.

Foster's latest Carlyle show is a rare opportunity to see this bona fide Broadway star up close and personal. My only wish is that it didn't have to end.

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