She has every reason to come on as the Broadway diva based on the shows in which she starred, including “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Anything Goes.” But in her entertaining new stint at the Café Carlyle (September 10-28, 2013) Sutton Foster embraces her audience with the utmost intimacy and simplicity. Her brown hair flowing and her eschewing any long nightclub-style gown for the choice of a simple dress instead, she unfolds a repertoire that, apart from a passionate, defiant outburst of “Being Alive,” is mostly pensive, sensitive and delicately romantic.
Although her “Nice ‘n’ Easy” defines her style, behind that demeanor is ultra professionalism that makes every body movement and intonation seem thoroughly natural. She has it all down skillfully, with the overall impression that of a happy, relaxed person who enjoys getting close to the audience members and being pleased to be there to entertain them.
Songs about relationships are highlights, such as “Warm All Over,” “The Nearness of You,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Lies of Handsome Men” and “Down With Love.” But she also can have sexy fun with the number “Air Conditioner,” in which she extols the romantic possibilities if the guy has one. She sang that at a previous Carlyle engagement and I enjoyed hearing it again.
When she sings “Georgia on my Mind” it is with wistfulness that communicates genuine longing, and when she sings “Anyone Can Whistle” from the show of that name, there is the magic that has made the show a favorite for those who believe it should have had a more successful life.
This time around Foster sings just accompanied on piano by her musical director Michael Rafter rather than with a larger musical group, and the arrangement befits the tone of her program, with the two working ever so smoothly together.
I wouldn’t have minded a few more bouncy numbers that she can do so well, but her emphasis on sensitivity has an impact all its own and jibes with the impression of Foster as a welcome ray of sunshine. At the Café Carlyle, 37 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue). Phone 212-744-1600. Reviewed September 14, 2013.