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Hunter Foster

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Hunter Foster in Lend Me A Tenor: His accidental tour of New England

By Terry Byrne, Globe Correspondent | August 31, 2007

Broadway favorite Hunter Foster has achieved the rare feat of spending his summer performing in New England vacation spots. He began the season with a June run of "The Full Monty" up at the Ogunquit Playhouse, then headed to the Berkshires for the world premiere of "Party Come Here" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and wraps up the season starring in "Lend Me a Tenor" at the Cape Playhouse through Sept. 8.

The tour of New England was completely unexpected. "It just worked out this way," says Foster. "If I'd tried to plan it, it never would have happened. Of course, you don't get much time to relax when rehearsal and performance times are tight. During 'Party Come Here,' I was constantly learning new lines and new songs, and in Ogunquit, it was still a bit too chilly in June to go to the beach. My wife and I (actress Jennifer Cody) are planning a trip to Martha's Vineyard during our time at the Cape, though."

Most actors long for this kind of schedule, but being busy has been a way of life since Foster's breakout performance as Bobby Strong in "Urinetown." He went on to play Seymour in the Broadway revival of "Little Shop of Horrors" in 2003, and then took over the character of Leo Bloom in "The Producers." No matter what the role, Foster always delivers an easy affability and quirky personality that makes him an audience favorite.

Max in "Lend Me a Tenor" is another in a string of comic roles, but the first in a long time that's not part of a musical comedy. "Everybody keeps asking me if I'm taking a break from musical comedy with this show, but it's not," he says. "There's constant movement, constant language and the tempo is really up. It's exhausting. I also have to sing an aria in Italian, which I never get to do, so in some ways it's harder than musical comedy."

In Ken Ludwig's fast-paced farce, Foster plays the opera company gofer who attempts to impersonate the star opera singer who's become indisposed hours before a big performance. With its slamming doors, mistaken identity, and crazy characters, "Lend Me a Tenor" is a whirlwind of slapstick and comic timing, guaranteed, Foster says, to keep him on his toes.

The production has the added bonus of bringing Foster and his wife together onstage. Cody plays Maggie, Max's ditsy girlfriend, and although the couple met while working together on a production of "Cats," Foster says they've never played opposite each other before.

"We were a little awkward at first," he says. "We'd never had to kiss each other onstage before. Somehow it felt like people were looking at us, and peering into our private life somehow. Now we're enjoying it, and I hope adding another dimension to it."

After "Tenor," Foster and Cody fly to Rome to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, and when he returns, he will make a definite break from the musical comedy roles that have defined him. On Oct. 10, he opens in previews for "Frankenstein," a new off-Broadway musical based on Mary Shelley's novel running at the 37 Arts Theatre. Ironically, his younger sister Sutton Foster ("The Drowsy Chaperone," "Thoroughly Modern Millie") stars in another take on Shelley's tale, Mel Brooks's "Young Frankenstein," which begins previews a day later.

"It's very odd, and kind of strange that we're both in these two very different versions of the same story at the same time," Foster says. "But it's great fun to be able to share the same kind of experience."

"Frankenstein," however, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from "Young Frankenstein."

"It's not a comedy at all," says Foster. "The creators are trying to be very true to the original novel, and it's kind of abstract, without a linear story. There's not a giant lab or green guy with bolts sticking out his head. It's more about relationships - between a man and his creator or a father and a son."

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