by Heather Cassell

San Francisco doesn’t know anything about a woman’s desperate need for air conditioning in a sweltering New York summer, but Sutton Foster heats up the room causing a need for a burst of cool air at the new Feinstien’s at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco.

Foster broke the proverbial bottle of Champaign to a sold out crowd opening night on May 8.

You can still catch her tonight and tomorrow night. If you miss her, she’s destine to return to the newly opened cabaret.

Belting out the busty overture to finding a man with an air conditioner to escape the sweltering heat, Foster leaves the room roaring in laughter as many of her songs this evening do. The two-time Tony-award winning Broadway star Foster treats us to beloved show tunes and tongue-in-cheek racy original ballads from her forthcoming album composed with musical collaborator Michael Rafter, who accompanies her on the piano this evening.

It’s an exemplary evening with Foster singing hit Broadway songs from “Anything Goes,” “Little Women,” “Annie,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” to yeasteryears hits, such as John Denver’s “Sunshine on My Shoulders” to name a few out of her 18-song performance. She delights us with her opening with a mashup of “Little Women,” “Annie,” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” displaying her impressive soprano voice that swiftly drops into an alto tone. It is clear that she enjoys not only playing with her voice, but also with songs about single women alternating between broadsy female anthems to soft and tender love songs.

Away from the lights of Broadway and Hollywood, she’s left the humidity of New York after 15 years for the dry desert heat of Los Angeles for her new show “Bunheads,” which airs June 11, her performance was intimate, personal and humble and in her girlish way. She gushed that she didn’t miss New York as she feared she would, but instead she loves L.A. at one point during the show she brings the man in her life, her dog Linus, up on to the stage. He sat in her lap as she sang one of her favorite new songs on her forthcoming album a medley of “It Only Takes a Moment” and “Time After Time” they end the performance with a double hi-five.

Dressed in a simple blue dress with beige heals and her wavy brown locks easily tumbling down her back. It is almost as if she returned to being the 17-year-old girl who first performed in the first national tour of “The Will Rogers Follies” at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. That was many years ago and many performances later, including a brief cabaret in San Francisco a few years ago, as she’s now clearly an accomplished artist that we will hopefully see more of in the near future.

She attracts star power from Broadway and the small screen, my girlfriend and I spotted Florence Henderson, from the 1970’s “Brady Bunch” fame, but who is an accomplished singer in her own right, to many music and theater admirers to the cabaret that once was the home of the now closed Live at the Rrazz Room.

A popular cabaret for the past 14 years in New York, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, closed at the beginning of this year at the same time the West Coast Feinstein’s emerged. Feinstein’s in New York and San Francisco is lead by the venerable Michael Feinstein, a renowned singer, pianist, and bearer of the Great American Songbook.

The San Francisco Feinstein’s had cabaret and Broadway musical fans the City by the Bay buzzing for months, especially after the city lost its own beloved musical outlet the Rrazz Room around the same time.

Foster is the perfect opener to satiate the void the hungry audience was waiting in anticipation to taste. If the forthcoming performers to grace Feinstein’s stage in the coming month – Mitzi Gaynor (May 15 – 18), Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway (May 29 – June 2), Andrea Marcovicci (June 7 and 8), Clint Holmes (June 12 – 16), Barbara Cook (June 19 – 23) and Steve Tyrell (June 25 – 29) – are any indication of the high quality talent that will come to the Nikko Hotel we will be mostly satisfied.

The only question is: Will Feinstein’s also showcase Broadway stars along with many of the same LGBT performers that made the Rrazz Room beloved by San Franciscans and unique in the cabaret world? The answer remains to be seen.

Sutton Foster performs on Saturday, May 11, 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 12, 7 Feinstein’s at the Nikko Hotel, 222 Mason St., San Francisco. Tickets $75 – $95.

Originally published on Passport Magazine’s Broadway blog.