The Stunning Transformation Of Sutton Foster

Queen of Broadway and television alike, Sutton Foster is a true triple threat. After getting her start with a Tony-winning turn in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 2000, Foster quickly became one of Broadway's most familiar faces (and biggest voices), originating roles in "Little Women," "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Young Frankenstein," "Shrek the Musical," "Anything Goes," and "Violet." She also landed a few TV gigs, appearing in "Flight of the Conchords" before she landed a starring role in "Bunheads," a ballet show from the creators of "Gilmore Girls." A few years later, she starred as Liza in Darren Star's "Younger," a show about a 40-year-old divorcee who pretends to be 26 to land a job as an assistant at a publishing company. The show ran for seven seasons on TV Land. 

After her time on TV, Foster returned to the stage, starring as Marian in "The Music Man" opposite Hugh Jackman. In 2024, Foster is set to take on yet another iconic role as Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd." Foster herself is nothing short of an icon, and she clearly has many more roles to come in her future. Let's take a look at the stunning transformation of Sutton Foster so far.

Sutton Foster moved around a lot as a child

Sutton Lenore Foster was born on March 18, 1975, to parents Bob and Helen, who had already had one son, Hunter. "I think because [my parents'] names are so common and run of the mill that they wanted to name their kids something different," Foster told Don Shewey in an interview. "My mom always said she hated her name so she wanted to name her children something really exciting." 

Foster and her brother grew up in Georgia but moved around a lot as children. "I was born and raised in Georgia," the star shared. "My father worked for General Motors so we traveled a lot. We probably never spent more than 3-4 years in a town. I was born in Statesboro, [and] lived in Athens and Augusta til I was about 13." Foster's mother had always dreamed of modeling, but she never had the chance to, so she gently encouraged her children to explore performing. Foster began dancing when she was just 4 years old and spent her childhood renting musicals from the library and making up her own opera arias. Soon enough, she was on stage herself.

Sutton Foster acted in community theater as a child

Encouraged by her mother, Sutton Foster got her start on stage young. At 10 years old, she appeared in her first play, "Annie." Naturally, she landed the lead role. "My mom said the room got really quiet. And then they cast me as Annie," she said to CBS. "That was the first time I'd ever really sung in public," Foster told Don Shewey. "Before that it was just yodeling in the house or singing in the bathtub and driving everybody crazy."

Later, Foster appeared on the TV talent show, "Star Search." The show featured just two contestants — and Foster still lost. "I lost to this guy Richard Blake, who's now a Broadway performer," Foster said to NPR. "So now every time I see him I give him squinty eyes, 'cause he beat me by a quarter star." However, Foster didn't let this setback discourage her, and she continued pursuing her dreams. By 17, she was cast in the touring production of "The Will Rogers Follies." 

Sutton Foster dropped out of college

After having a taste of the life of a professional actor with "The Will Rogers Follies," Sutton Foster decided to train in musical theater at Carnegie Mellon. "I wanted to be a normal kid, I was gonna go to college and try to become a real actor. But I was real young," she told Don Shewey. As she explained, she wasn't "ready to learn" so she ended up dropping out of the program after just one year. 

At first, Foster didn't know what to do next. She ended up moving back in with her parents who, at this point, were in Tennessee. "I gained 20 pounds and I cut off all of my hair," she told Amy Sherman-Palladino in a conversation for Interview Magazine. "I was just lost. I worked at the Macaroni Grill." However, her mother kept encouraging her to follow her dreams and even found out about open calls in New York. She eventually moved in with her brother, Hunter, who was working on Broadway at the time. "I went to an open call, I waited outside in line for hours," she recalled. "Danced, sang, did the whole thing, and they cast me on the spot to go on the road." And just like that, Foster had landed a role in "Grease."

Sutton Foster got her big break on Broadway after an accident

After a few touring productions, Sutton Foster's big break came in an unexpected way — in fact, it's the stuff of Broadway legend. She had been cast as the understudy of the lead character in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," a brand-new Broadway musical. "I was young; I was 25 years old," she told Interview Magazine. "I was super green and super naive. I always said I had a lot of raw talent, a lot of energy, but really no finesse or training." However, everything changed when Erin Dilly, who had been cast in the lead role, got sick right before the show opened. So, Foster had to step in.

"They asked me to step in for her during rehearsals, I ended up having to learn the show in like 3 days, we did a full run-thru, and I think ... she ended up having to leave the show, and they wanted me to take over the role," she told Don Shewey, adding, "I started crying and literally couldn't stop crying for a couple of hours cuz I was so scared."

Both the show and Foster were a huge hit and the performer shot to Broadway fame. She ultimately won a Tony Award for her performance.

Sutton Foster's career took off with a series of musicals after she won the Tony for Thoroughly Modern Millie

After her huge success with "Thoroughly Modern Millie," Sutton Foster went on to star in a string of other successful Broadway musicals. In 2005, she played Jo March in a musical adaptation of the novel "Little Women." Then, in 2006, she was the flamboyant singer Janet Van De Graaff in "The Drowsy Chaperone." In 2007, she took on the role of Inga in "Young Frankenstein," a musical adaptation of the film. One year later, she played Princess Fiona, the princess-turned-ogre, in "Shrek the Musical." She received a Tony nomination for each of the performances, apart from "Young Frankenstein." 

Foster was quickly becoming one of the best-known actors on Broadway, but she never took her success for granted. "I'm ... aware that I used to be a 14-year-old girl dreaming of this, so I never take it for granted," she told in 2005. "I cannot believe that I get to walk into a stage door in New York and do what I love to do every night."

Even though Foster later went on to work in TV, her years on Broadway remained a highlight of her career. "There's nothing like that live experience ... But Broadway and performing live in the theater is my true love," she later told Elle.

Sutton Foster was with Christian Borle for years

Sutton Foster began dating actor Christian Borle while she was at Carnegie Mellon. "He was two years ahead of me, and then we re-met doing 'The Three Musketeers,'" she told "We were just friends then, but it was a special time." Later, he replaced Gavin Creel as the leading man in "Thoroughly Modern Millie," and the pair acted opposite each other on stage. "I never saw him as my boyfriend when we were onstage, I saw him as an actor," she said. The pair then tied the knot in 2006 and were married for four years before divorcing in 2010.

Years later, Foster worked with her now ex again in the 2016 "Gilmore Girls" reunion and in a few episodes of "Younger" in 2018. "We have a really positive, wonderful relationship," she explained to People. "We were together for a reason and we separated for a reason, but he was a huge part of my 20s and 30s and a huge part of my life and to completely cut him out of my life would seem not right."  She added, "It's a relationship that I fight for and I think we both do." 

Sutton Foster starred in the short-lived series Bunheads

In 2012, Sutton Foster was cast in her biggest TV role yet with Amy Sherman-Palladino's "Bunheads." Foster had previously had a few TV cameos in shows that included "Flight of the Conchords," "Law & Order," and "Royal Pains." As the star of "Bunheads," Foster played Michelle, a Las Vegas actor and dancer who marries a new boyfriend and winds up in a small town teaching ballet to a group of girls at her new mother-in-law's dance studio.

For Foster, it was the perfect show to mark her first screen leading role. "I'm thrilled with how everything turned out, and I just love the show, and I'm happy that we get to do more," she told Playbill. "It was such an incredible experience — incredibly challenging — but I felt like I was having the time of my life. I loved it." 

When the show was canceled in 2013, Foster was naturally disappointed but quickly moved on to new projects.

Sutton Foster married Ted Griffin in 2014 and her priorities changed

Sutton Foster met the screenwriter Ted Griffin, known for writing "Ocean's Eleven," on a blind date. By October 2014, the pair had gotten married in a Santa Barbara wedding. Foster appeared on the show "Say Yes to the Dress" to find her perfect dress for the big day. "I knew that [dress] made me 'feel' different," she told People of the experience. "I felt very confident and knew that it was the first dress I had tried on that felt 'right.'"

When Foster met and settled down with Griffin, a lot changed for her. "I'd always been on the fence about having kids. And when I met my husband, Ted ... all of a sudden, I had this new sort of idea about what family was about," she told Popsugar, explaining how her new relationship made her re-evaluate her priorities. "Somehow, when we got married, it brought our families together. And I thought, 'Oh. If I was to have a kid, that just makes sense.' So we started trying right away to get pregnant," she added.

After the pair welcomed their daughter, she and her husband still worked to make time for their relationship. In fact, the pair even got into a habit of planning surprise dates around New York City. 

Sutton Foster starred in Younger, bringing her to a wider audience

From 2015 to 2021, Sutton Foster played Liza Miller, a 40-something woman who pretends to be 26 for the sake of getting a job after leaving work to raise her daughter. The TV Land show was created by "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star and also starred Hilary Duff, Miriam Shor, and Peter Hermann were also in the cast of "Younger." By the end of Season 2, the show was being watched by around 1.30 million viewers.

For Foster, the show was a dream come true. "It's been interesting and it's been fun!" she told Shondaland. "When I started doing the show, I felt like I was learning so much just by being around my co-stars who were in their twenties at the time, like Hillary [Duff] and Molly [Bernard] and Nico [Tortorella]. I was constantly going, 'Oh, there's just a whole other generation and I've been under a rock.'" 

When the show finally came to an end after seven seasons, Foster felt "bittersweet" leaving Liza behind, as she told WWD. She also left with a newfound awareness of the ageism embedded in society. "I'm less quick to have a preconceived notion about what I think [about someone's age]," she reflected. "That's something that I will take away from this entire experience because I think my lens is just way wider."

Sutton Foster adopted her daughter after a fertility struggle and it changed everything

After tying the knot with Ted Griffin, Sutton Foster began trying for a baby. What ensued was a long fertility journey. "The minute you start to try to get pregnant, you're like, 'Oh. It's impossible,'" she told Popsugar. "I was like, 'Wait a minute. Why is this happening?' And I was so frustrated because I feel like I'm such a doer." After trying three rounds of IVF, Foster and her husband eventually decided to adopt and the pair welcomed Emily Dale into their family. "The fire lit on the adoption ... And it became a different journey for us, and very positive, and it was very clear that Emily was supposed to be our daughter," she told the Los Angeles Times. "With Emily, I say, 'I didn't grow her in my belly, but I grew her in my heart.' We found each other," she added, explaining that they decided to be completely open with their daughter about their adoption story.

Becoming a mother changed everything for Foster. For one thing, it changed her marriage and her relationship with Griffin. But it also proved to be, as she put it to People, an "overwhelmingly beautiful" experience.

Sutton Foster relies on the joys of crafting

One of the constants in Sutton Foster's life has been crafting. She discovered her love of knitting and crocheting as a teenager. "I've always been super crafty," she told Amy Sherman-Palladino for Interview Magazine. "I've always loved to draw and make stuff, and I thought it would be a nice hobby. I used to cross-stitch because my mom cross-stitched." 

Over the years, crafting has become one of Foster's favorite activities, both on set and at home. In fact, in 2021, she wrote a book about how crafting had helped her mental health throughout her career. In the book, she explained how she had created different blankets and objects at different moments in her life. For instance, she created a divorce blanket while separating from Christian Borle. She also made a Liza blanket in honor of her time on "Younger." "My relationship to crafting changed over the years ... I can work things out when I'm crocheting ... Yes, I'm a singer and an actor and a dancer. I do all these things," she told Oprah Daily. "But I think I'd be completely content just being known as a crocheter."

Sutton Foster starred alongside Hugh Jackman in The Music Man

After spending seven years on "Younger," Sutton Foster finally returned to her theatrical roots in 2022 with the Broadway revival of "The Music Man," starring as Marian Paroo alongside Hugh Jackman as conman Howard Hill. Returning to Broadway was a daunting change of pace. "Doing eight shows a week is, like, the hardest thing that I've ever done and you really are an athlete," she told Us Weekly, explaining that she gave herself a whole year to train her body and voice for the job. 

The show was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when it finally opened, Foster couldn't have been happier. "I feel enormous gratitude," she told Elle at the time. "There's nothing like that live experience — especially now, after 18 months where it was non-existent." Although she loved "Younger," she explained that nothing could compare to theater. "Broadway and performing live in the theater is my true love," she said.

Sutton Foster got a chance to perform in London reprising her role in Anything Goes

Sutton Foster had another chance to make her theatrical dreams come true in 2021 when, during the COVID delay on "The Music Man," she reprised her role as Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes" in a production of the show in London, England. As the actor explained to the Evening Standard, she had always wanted to work in the West End.

"I am very emotional," she said. "It is overwhelming and amazing and I am just so grateful. I honestly can't believe it. It has been thrilling." The actor explained, "It has always been my dream to live and work here. I have felt honored to be here with everyone."

While living in London with her family, Foster made sure she and her daughter saw a lot of theater. "She is loving it," the mom gushed. "It is wonderful to be here." 

Sutton Foster is taking on another iconic role in 2024

As of 2023, it looks like there's even more theater on the horizon for Sutton Foster. In October 2023, it was announced that Foster would be replacing Annaleigh Ashford as Mrs. Lovett, the pie maker-turned-murderer, in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Sweeney Todd." It was also announced that Aaron Tveit — who starred in the 2012 movie musical "Les Misérables" — would be playing the titular role alongside Foster. The pair are set to take over the iconic roles in February 2024. 

In an Instagram announcement about the casting, the caption read, "There's a new deadly duo in town — Fleet Street is honored to welcome Aaron Tveit as Sweeney Todd and Sutton Foster as Mrs. Lovett beginning February 9." We can't wait to see Foster take on this legendary musical theater role — and we're sure there will be many more iconic roles on stage and screen to come in her future, too!