Foster mentions the anxiety of waking up and feeling sore or sick, but knowing she’s being counted on for the evening show (or two on Wednesdays and Saturdays). “It’s very stressful, because you want to be at your best,” she says. “But we’re not machines.”
Factor in that Foster’s first national tour came when she was a 17-year-old high school senior in “The Will Rogers Follies,” with road and Broadway gigs of “Grease,” “Annie,” and “Les Miz” to follow. It has already been a long, robust showbiz career.
“All I’ve known is eight shows a week,” she says. “I’ve never known the concept of a weekend, or the concept of a hiatus.”
If this has been Foster’s world, it’s both because she went for it and because she was such a natural that she now laughs about the “horrible” (her word) auditions that never seemed to keep her from getting jobs.
Like her first time in New York at 17, singing for performer-choreographer- director Tommy Tune and composer Cy Coleman, not knowing who these heavyweights were. Or two years later, auditioning for Jeff Calhoun, who had first spotted her in Detroit for “Will Rogers” — only now she was 20 pounds heavier from eating the employee food at the Macaroni Grill in Memphis, where she and her parents had moved.
Did Calhoun remember her?
“Oh, yeah,” Foster says. “I was the klutz from Detroit.”
There are more — she auditioned for “Annie” director and lyricist Martin Charnin wearing clogs and singing the title song from “Oklahoma!” But now perhaps the point is that down to her bones, she knows the life she is portraying in the kooky but poignant “Bunheads.” The series begins with Foster’s showgirl character not getting a sniff for a “Chicago” audition (too old!). But as a teacher, she relates to the small-town teenage dancers in a way that Bishop’s older character sometimes can’t.
Dancing isn’t the main event in “Bunheads” — “It’s three different generations of women finding their way,” Foster summarizes — and it’s nowhere near as showbiz-smitten as NBC’s ultra-soapy “Smash.” But Foster, who grew up in dance studios from the age of 4, likes the way the show lets its young actors do their own dancing, and the way performances in the homey little studio are often filmed in unedited full-body shots.
Take a scene from the fourth episode: as the teens prepare for the local audition held by Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, Foster dreams of her own audition for “Chicago,” singing Kander and Ebb’s “Me and My Baby.” (No pre-recording for the vocal, she points out.) She smoothly nails a high kick, subtly shimmies left to right, working the shoulders one moment, the hips the next. It’s a tidy piece of choreography, unedited and filmed in one shot, showcasing a dancer’s capability.