Pro­file Sierra Boggess brings her ver­sa­tile voice to Aus­tralia

Broad­way star Sierra Boggess is bring­ing her bur­nished so­prano to the Aus­tralian stage, writes Cameron Pegg

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

Sierra Boggess has a clear mes­sage for the animals of Aus­tralia: be pre­pared. “All wildlife should be on alert that I’m com­ing and I’m go­ing to need to stare at them and touch them, if that’s al­lowed,” she con­fesses from New York ahead of her first visit.

In be­tween cud­dling koalas, the Broad­way star, In­sta­gram afi­cionado and cat lover will per­form con­certs with a full orches­tra in Syd­ney, Bris­bane and Mel­bourne next month.

In the past decade, Boggess has made some of the big­gest roles in the mu­si­cal the­atre canon her own. In do­ing so, she con­vinced An­drew Lloyd Web­ber to cast her as the fe­male lead in Love Never Dies, the ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated se­quel to The Phantom of the Opera. Chris­tine Daae, the cho­rus girl sin­gled out by her dis­fig­ured singing teacher to be­come a star, has be­come Boggess’s call­ing card.

The young woman from Denver, Colorado, found her way to the Cat­a­combs of Paris in a round­about way. Not long af­ter grad­u­at­ing from col­lege, Boggess was pay­ing her dues in a tour­ing pro­duc­tion of Les Mis­er­ables when the op­por­tu­nity arose to au­di­tion for a new pro­duc­tion of Phantom to open in Las Ve­gas.

It was her sole day off, and Boggess rushed back to re­join the tour, only for tragedy to in­ter­vene when her train struck a per­son on the tracks. She made it to the the­atre but had missed the first act — a car­di­nal sin for a rookie per­former. The gam­ble was vin­di­cated when she learned she had earned a call­back and would be singing for Lloyd Web­ber him­self.

The fol­low­ing week she flew to New York where the famed com­poser, along with his long­time chore­og­ra­pher Gil­lian Lynne and leg­endary pro­ducer and di­rec­tor Harold “Hal” Prince, were wait­ing in the au­di­to­rium of the Am­bas­sador The­atre. The trio put Boggess to work, test­ing her with mul­ti­ple as­pir­ing Phan­toms to see which pair­ing would work best.

With a laugh, she re­calls Prince’s pithy feed­back: “Well, that was swell.”

As she sped back to the air­port, Boggess got the call that changed her life. She re­lo­cated to Ve­gas, where she played Chris­tine for a year, and has per­formed the char­ac­ter in var­i­ous in­car­na­tions in the West End and on Broad­way.

Boggess has a bur­nished, ring­ing so­prano that seems an ideal match for the vo­cal ac­ro­bat­ics re­quired for the role. As a young singer she was drawn to the tech­ni­cal rigour re­quired to pull it off, but hun­dreds of per­for­mances later it’s the psy­chol­ogy of the char­ac­ter that keeps her com­ing back.

Lloyd Web­ber de­clared her the de­fin­i­tive Chris­tine and cast her in the gala per­for­mances at Lon­don’s Royal Al­bert Hall in 2011 to mark the show’s 25th an­niver­sary. As a birth­day sur­prise, Boggess was joined on stage by some of the best known Phan­toms, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian lead­ing man An­thony War­low.

“I went up to An­thony and I said to him, ‘On be­half of all men in mu­si­cal the­atre, I want to thank you’, be­cause every man that I know lis­tened to his voice and wanted to sound like him.” (The Jekyll and Hyde orig­i­nal record­ing, star­ring War­low, was one of her favourites dur­ing col­lege.)

Boggess has de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion as a safe

pair of hands for new char­ac­ters. She de­buted Ariel in the orig­i­nal mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion of The

Lit­tle Mer­maid; took the cov­eted role of Chris­tine in Love Never Dies when it opened in Lon­don; and re­cently starred as Prin­ci­pal Mullins in

School of Rock, Lloyd Web­ber’s lat­est Broad­way hit. (One role re­mains un­fin­ished — that of Chris­tine in the long-awaited French adap­ta­tion of Phantom. Af­ter learn­ing the en­tire show in an­other lan­guage, Boggess was de­nied the chance to per­form when the the­atre was dam­aged in a fire dur­ing re­hearsals. Hap­pily, a bilin­gual ren­di­tion of Wish­ing You Were Some

how Here Again is now part of her reper­toire.) Her most sur­pris­ing cre­ation, how­ever, was un­veiled at a 2013 char­ity per­for­mance where she floored the au­di­ence with a ruth­less im­per­son­ation of Brit­ney Spears. Clad in tow­er­ing heels and clutch­ing a giant can of Red Bull as she stag­gered across the stage, Boggess cat­er­wauled her way through Think of Me — trans­form­ing one of Phantom’s sig­na­ture arias into a pop mu­sic train wreck. As if to prove her versa- tility, at the same con­cert she de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful, per­fectly enun­ci­ated ren­di­tion of Stars from

Les Mis­er­ables — the torch song per­formed by the po­lice­man Javert. Should the role ever be cast as a woman, Boggess will be wait­ing.

The singer is a stu­dent of self-help au­thors Wayne Dyer, Brene Brown and Mar­i­anne Wil­liamson, and her In­sta­gram ac­count is pep­pered with mo­ti­va­tional quotes from the likes of Os­car Wilde, AA Milne and Paulo Coelho.

One par­tic­u­lar apho­rism has stuck with her. At 17, a singing teacher told her: “You are enough. You are so enough. It’s un­be­liev­able how enough you are.” It be­came her “war cry”, and fans be­gan to ask for hand­writ­ten copies of the quote. The young per­former obliged, with­out real­is­ing what it would in­spire.

“I can’t tell you the amount of fans that have come up to me and shown me their tat­toos in my hand­writ­ing,” she says, dumb­founded.

With 125,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, Boggess knows she has a plat­form to share her views, and cu­rates her con­tent wisely.

“We have so­cial media and peo­ple re­ally, re­ally pay at­ten­tion to what you’re say­ing. So I be­came very clear early on that what I put out there I need to make sure it’s some­thing that is help­ful and is good en­ergy as op­posed to con­tribut­ing more dark­ness.”

The Women’s March that swept across the US fol­low­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was a fam­ily af­fair. Boggess’s par­ents par­tic­i­pated in Colorado, while Sierra and her cel­list sis­ter, Sum­mer, took to the streets with fel­low per­form­ers in New York. Their younger sis­ter Al­le­gra is also an ac­com­plished mu­si­cian. All three sib­lings sup­port ASTEP, a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that brings mu­sic to un­der­priv­i­leged kids around the world.

True to her Zen phi­los­o­phy, Boggess chooses not to pre­dict her next role or per­form­ing part­ner, with one no­table ex­cep­tion.

“I’ve been very lucky with the peo­ple I’ve worked with and I look for­ward to see­ing who else the uni­verse is go­ing to throw at me. But any­body who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Bar­bra Streisand, so any time that she wants to work with me would be just fine.”

Con­vinc­ing Streisand to tour down un­der at short no­tice might be a tall or­der, but what about a cameo from her BFF Brit­ney?

Boggess is coy about re­veal­ing her Aus­tralian set list, but a smile enters her voice.

“That is very, very pos­si­ble.”

Sierra Boggess will per­form at the State The­atre in Syd­ney on June 3, the Queens­land Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre in Bris­bane on June 8, and the Arts Cen­tre in Mel­bourne on June 10.


So­prano Sierra Boggess has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a safe pair of hands with new mu­si­cal roles

Boggess in, from left, School of Rock, The Lit­tle Mer­maid and Love Never Dies

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