Sierra Boggess, of Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and The Little Mermaid fame, was a beautiful presence onstage at the Riverside Church on Sunday, April 21, 2013. Her popularity was evidenced by the enthusiastic audience and her crowd of fans at the press table afterwards. Dressed in a dusky violet evening gown, Boggess recounted her journey from Denver to her Broadway debut and beyond in an evening performance titled Lessons in Love as a benefit for Broadway Arts Factory.
Boggess is probably most well-known for playing Christine Daae in Las Vegas’ Phantom of the Opera, The West End’s Love Never Dies, and Broadway’s 25 anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera. Her Broadway debut was as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid in 2007. Boggess has starred on both sides of the Atlantic, from Broadway (Master Class) to the West End (Les Miserables). She brought all of her talent and some of her favorite songs from the shows to perform.
Boggess skillfully wove personal memoir with classic show tunes and her own Broadway repertoire with anecdotes about first becoming famous, her grandparents influence and her obsession with Barbara Streisand. “Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that I am in love with Barbara Streisand,” she told the audience. Besides skillfully weaving her personal memories into the songs she sang, Boggess accompanied her stories with old photographs and personal props, like a touching letter between her grandparents.
Boggess began the show with a skit about running late for her performance. The moment played up an important part of Boggess’ charm: her goofiness. Part of her appeal lies in the fact that she can still be a funny theatre kid from Denver. Appropriately, Boggess began her show by going back to her high school experience. She related how her high school drama teacher taught her that love is required to make a community out of the theater family. It is a lesson that Boggess brought with her to New York City and, she said, helped her to her Broadway debut.
Boggess next shared the lesson her grandparents taught her, “Love the one you’re with.” She talked about her grandparent’s dedicated love and all the support they gave to each other. Boggess also shared about loving yourself, in spite of what others might say. As an example she showed what other people said on Twitter about her debut as Ariel, including some not-so-complimentary remarks. She learned two things: don’t read blogs or the Internet anymore, and “You are enough. You are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are,” as she says on her Twitter page. It is this personal mantra that helps her remember where she comes from and gives her the strength to get to where she is going, she said.
One of the more entertaining moments was seeing Boggess freak out about Streisand. She shared, in exciting detail, her trip to see Streisand perform in Brooklyn, which included photographs, ticket stubs and a hilariously appropriate rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By,” interspersed with a very dramatic monologue about meeting Streisand in person. Famous people have their heroes too.
Boggess proves that she is a talented and charismatic performer in her own right. Her combination of glamour and goofiness makes her persona a little celebrity and a little approachable. Her singing reflected her charming, humorous personality, from the funny opening song “Lovely” (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) to her eerily dead-on Julie Andrews impression in “I Have Confidence” (The Sound of Music) and her simple “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (Roberta). She tore into the lively songs like “Love Never Dies” with gusto and wrung real humor and heart from ballads like “Mr. Snow” (Carousel). On the really funny side of things she sang an Andrew Lloyd Webber mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats and more in two distinct, dueling styles: a preening pop-star versus an operatic diva. The result was hilarious and a real crowd pleaser.
Boggess closed with the message to be yourself, you are enough, send out high energy and share love. Her talent was evident and easy and Broadway Arts Factory thanked her profusely for being there. Boggess and her collaborators on Lessons in Love, including her talented accompanist Brian Hertz, admirably went beyond an evening of mere show tunes and created a show about theater, art and love that really came from the heart.
Broadway Arts Factory is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to training 11-18 year olds for careers in musical theatre regardless of their financial means. You can find out more by visiting their website.