Sutton Foster, who officially opens the new Feinstein’s at the Nikko nightclub today, is a charming contradiction to the George Bernard Shaw maxim, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”
Foster clearly can do. She racked up five Tony nominations in the past decade — for all but one of her past six Broadway gigs — and won twice, for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Anything Goes.”
Also on the “can/do” list are two successful solo CDs and the extremely popular ABC Family girl-power series “Bunheads,” where her character, a former showgirl, now teaches at a small-town ballet school. “We are eagerly awaiting renewal news,” Foster says.
She can also teach, and does. She has a longtime affiliation with Ball State University in Indiana and has led workshops for the Young Actors’ Theatre Camp run by performers Shawn Ryan and John Ainsworth in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“It feels good to be able to give back and share the ups and downs from my experience with the next generation of people who want to be in this business,” she says. “I grew up in a very small town and didn’t even know what Broadway was until I was about 14.”
Looking back, she considers how valuable it would have been to her to have the opportunities she’s giving young performance aspirants. “I think that’s why I particularly like teaching at Ball State. There’s a real Midwest sensibility.”
The Georgia native grew up in Michigan before hitting the road, literally, at 17 with “The Will Rogers Follies” on tour. “San Francisco was where we tech’d the show. I lived on Nob Hill for eight weeks and every day I took the cable car down the hill to the Golden Gate Theatre.”
Later, another month here with a tour of “Grease” reinforced her love for The City. “I’m doing a lot of concert work right now, which is often just a night here and a night there, so I’m particularly excited to be able to spend a whole week in town.”
She’s working with Michael Rafter, her “Millie” conductor and musical collaborator ever since, on material for a new CD and hints that the Feinstein’s gig might include “some new stuff that we’re gonna try for the very first time.”
She describes the show as “simple” with “a lot of American songbook and jazz standards. It’s just me. No wigs or false lashes,” she laughs. “I hope it will be fun for the audience to get a window into me and who I am without a character in front of me.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. today through Friday, 7 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $75 to $95
Contact: (415) 394-1111, www.feinsteinssf.com