The West

Broadway star Sutton Foster, centre, stars in the new comedy-drama Bunheads. Picture: Andrew Eccles

The first episode of American pay-TV dramedy Bunheads saw 30-something ballerina-turned-Vegas showgirl Michelle Simms (Sutton Foster) married and widowed in about 24 hours.

Thanks to the snappy writing of Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, the sequence of awkward situations Michelle got herself into as she wed her admirer on a drunken whim and moved to his sleepy hometown - much to the disapproval of his family and friends - resulted in countless outrageously witty remarks.

Speaking over the phone between filming season two in Los Angeles, Foster says she enjoys playing such a spontaneous, outspoken character. "I love how much she just barrels through life," she says. "She doesn't have a very big edit button. She speaks her mind. She gets herself in so many situations that are fun to get in and get out of."

One of them involves inheriting her late husband's estate where her overbearing mother-in-law, Fanny, lives and has a ballet school. Fanny's ballet students appear to be the only people in town who like Michelle as she outstays her welcome.

"Michelle doesn't really care what people think," Foster says. "She's impulsive but ultimately has a huge heart and she's just trying to figure out her life and where she can matter and mean something and grow up. Maybe this town and the people will provide some answers for her."

Named after the slang term used to describe dedicated ballerinas, Bunheads shares similarities with Gilmore Girls. It follows three generations of female characters living in a small town and is full of Sherman-Palladino's trademark rapid-fire dialogue dotted with obscure pop cultural references. Kelly Bishop, who played posh matriarch Emily Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, guest stars again, this time as the much more eccentric matriarch Fanny Flowers.

Unlike her character, Foster has had a long and successful career on the stage. She's had a string of starring roles in Broadway productions and won two Tony Awards.

Her well-timed comic acting in her first big TV role has been compared to comedy legend Carol Burnett so it's no surprise the 37-year-old admits to being addicted to The Carol Burnett Show while growing up in Michigan.

"It's a show that multi-generations can relate to," Foster says. "I think a lot of people can also relate to a sense of starting over. Life is heading in one direction and you want to derail it and head in another.

"It's also smart and funny. It means something. And I love that it's a show that's about the arts and dance. And it's about young people finding their way. It's unlike anything else that's on TV."

The West Australian

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