From Little Mermaid to Phantom of the Opera, Sierra Boggess’ 6 Most Memorable Nights Onstage

Diva Talk   From Little Mermaid to Phantom of the Opera, Sierra Boggess’ 6 Most Memorable Nights Onstage
 
The gifted soprano recalls playing Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and the evening Marriage Equality became law.
HR - Sierra Boggess.jpg
Sierra Boggess

Maybe it's the voice, maybe it's the cascading auburn locks, maybe it's the appealing sincerity she brings to each role, but there is something ethereal, almost poetic, in the performances of Sierra Boggess, who made her Broadway debut as Disney's The Little Mermaid. Those qualities have not gone unnoticed by theatre fans or Tony-winning composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who cast the luminous actor in the London premiere of his The Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, as well as the Broadway debut of his newest musical, School of Rock. The actor, who boasts a thrillingly rich, soaring soprano (and a powerful belt), also found tremendous success as Christine Daae in the original Phantom, playing the role in the West End, at London's Royal Albert Hall (to celebrate the musical's 25th anniversary), and on Broadway (to celebrate its 25th anniversary in New York).

Boggess, who played Fantine in the West End production of Les Misérables and starred opposite Tyne Daly in the heralded Broadway revival of Master Class, will bring her many talents and her critically acclaimed concert evening to Playbill Travel’s Broadway on the High Seas July 2018 cruise to Iceland; she will be joined on the voyage by fellow Broadway favorites Judy Kuhn, Rob McClure, Jarrod Spector, Carmen Cusack, and two-time Tony winner Christine Ebersole. Visit PlaybillTravel.com for booking and information.

We asked Boggess to pen a list of her most memorable nights in the theatre; her responses follow.

First preview on Broadway of The Little Mermaid

Well, this was unforgettable for all the reasons one would think! I remember thinking, “When I step on that stage tonight, I have officially made my Broadway debut!” And then when the curtain came down at the end, my director, Francesca Zambello, came and hugged the cast, and I was the last one she hugged, and I remember standing in the middle of that stage with the orchestra playing the “exit music,” and we hugged and cried and said, “We did it…” It was her Broadway debut as well, even though she was a seasoned opera director! So, it was a very special moment, and it just hit me that night how all this hard work paid off, and it was very emotional and overwhelming and terrifying all at the same time! It’s one of those moments when you feel like life, as you have known it, will never be the same!

It Shoulda Been You on Broadway on June 26, 2015

The day the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage! And I was playing Rebecca Steinburg in It Shoulda Been You, a show literally about a fabricated wedding all because my character was too afraid to be judged for being a gay woman! So that night when I sang Rebecca’s coming out song, it was so emotional, and felt like the stars and the universe were all aligning for me to be able to be the vessel to honor everyone that is fighting so hard to be seen and honored and just allowed to be who they are! And at the end of the show, Tyne Daly, who played my mother in the show, came forward at curtain call and gave the most heartfelt curtain speech about the fact that this day we finally legalized humanity! She shared that decades ago, on that same day, interracial marriages were legalized! Love was celebrated that night, and it was one of those moments as an actor that made me so proud of what I do for a living. This is so much bigger than just singing and dancing on a stage! Through singing and dancing on a stage we can actually change lives and maybe even save some!

Les Misérables on the road first time I ever went on
This show was something I had dreamed about doing but also never imagined it would actually be something I would ever be a part of! I was fresh out of college, and I had booked this job on the national tour of Les Miz to understudy Cosette and be in the ensemble as the “hair hag.” Yes, that’s right, the “hair hag” was the name of my track! And, I had been in heaven just rehearsing the thing for a couple weeks, and watching literally from the barricade in the wings to learn from the girl I was replacing on the road. The first night I went on, I remember the feeling of stepping onto the turntable, and as it was turning downstage the orchestra was playing, and everything, of course, felt like it was happening in slow motion! And, suddenly it’s my solo line: “and in a bed!” That was it! And I was so nervous and so excited and felt like I cannot mess this up! I didn’t want to be the one responsible for messing up Les Miz! You know? It was seriously unforgettable… and the cast was so supportive because I was so young and so excited that I was getting to be a part of Les Miz, and I remember one girl saying to me before I went onstage, “You are about to be in LES MISERABLES!” It was such a cool moment of recognition that you get to be part of the history books now!

First time singing The Proms at Royal Albert Hall 2010

Stepping onto the stage of Royal Albert Hall was in itself an out-of-body experience. So in London, every summer they do The Proms, where musicians and conductors come from all over the world to celebrate music and have the chance to perform at Royal Albert Hall for sold-out audiences. John Wilson asked me to sing the Rodgers and Hammerstein-themed Prom that summer, and it was my first time ever singing in that hall and singing with this 80-some-piece orchestra! It literally felt like a musical hug! It was one of my favorite performances in my life. The BBC was there filming it for TV and so people were seeing it live in London as well… it was just incredible. And since that time Royal Albert Hall has almost become a second home of sorts.

Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall
Well, this was truly a night for the books. First of all, directed by Jack O’Brien, who is my all-time favorite director and maybe one of the greatest humans on the planet; then Nathan Lane, who is iconic in the part of Nathan Detroit, playing opposite the gorgeous-in-every-way Patrick Wilson; and then Megan Mullally, as Adelaide, who is one of my favorite actresses of all time… at Carnegie Hall playing Sarah Brown, a role I have always dreamed of playing… with full orchestra… it was a recipe for awesomeness. I remember stepping out onto the stage as Sarah and thinking, “ This might be what heaven feels like!” The energy of the place was electric, and during the final bow I was looking down the line of fellow actors and thinking, “Wow, this is my team! These are my people! This is real life right now!” It was just one of those nights that my college-musical-theatre-major-self would never have believed if I had told her!

The Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall

This is hands down one of my favorite nights in theatre in my life. Ramin [Karimloo] and I have been close friends for years, and we trust each other so deeply onstage, and we both just knew we were going to be there for each other in such a major way as Phantom and Christine. It was like this spiritual understanding that we owe this to each other and the characters. So that night we gave this performance as if our lives depended on it. It was like we left our artistic souls on the stage that night. I felt drained and elated all at the same time. It felt like Christine and I became one… it was almost like it was my responsibility to honor “her” with all of my soul that night. I knew that we were not only doing this for the thousands at Royal Albert Hall but also being broadcast live to cinemas all around the world… The amount of people who love this show and this character… it was a huge responsibility, but I almost felt as if my life had been preparing me for this. It truly was one of those moments that I couldn’t recreate if I tried. It was everything aligning at once. And, I remember singing “Think of Me” knowing Michael Crawford was in the audience, and I imagined that I was singing for him! And, then when I got to “Wishing…,” I thought, “This is for everyone who has lost someone and is struggling with letting go.” It just was a moment that was bigger than me, and when I came out to take my final bow, I don’t think I have ever felt more joy and elation in my entire life. Just absolutely pure ecstasy! This one… this show… this character… that moment, was unforgettable.

Marilyn Maye

Marilyn Maye
Marilyn Maye

There may be no singer who loves to perform classics from the American Songbook more than Marilyn Maye, the 89-year-old phenomenon who offered a series of four concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room the weekend of October 27, and that enthusiasm is infectious. Backed by the impressive, 17-piece Tedd Firth Big Band, Maye, whose textured voice remains in remarkable shape, dazzled the sold-out crowd with a 90-minute program that explored her “Secret o’ Life,” which is to focus on the good. In fact, one of Maye’s many offerings of the evening was a song simply titled “No Bad News.” For someone who is so optimistic—her mantra, she says, is Jerry Herman's “It's Today”—she is surprised that her most-requested song is the torchy “Guess Who I Saw Today.” However, after hearing Maye’s perfect delivery of the jazz standard, one can understand her audiences’ predilection for the tune.

Two of the evening's many highlights came from the musical theatre: a belty “If He Walked Into My Life” from Jerry Herman's Mame and one of the finest renditions of Ballroom's “50 Percent” that this writer has heard. In fact, Maye treated the latter as its own mini-drama, building to an exciting, full-voiced finale. Other high points: a wonderful take on “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” that began with simple guitar accompaniment; a terrific medley of tunes from Maye's favorite composer, Johnny Mercer; and a Fats Waller medley that allowed Maye to display both her wonderful timing and sense of humor.

The veteran performer, whose delivery of lyrics is so welcomingly conversational that it often seems she is creating them spontaneously, concluded her evening with a touching rendition of “Here's to Life” before an encore of the aforementioned “It's Today.” Throughout the evening, Marilyn Maye joked that her middle name is “Medley,” but I'm pretty sure it must be “Marvelous.”

Visit Maye’s page in Playbill Universe for her upcoming concert dates.

Senior editor Andrew Gans is also the author of the monthly Their Favorite Things column.

LOVE THE THEATRE? CHECK OUT THE PLAYBILL STORE FOR MERCHANDISE!

Recommended: