BWW Interviews: Christopher Sieber Talks LA CAGE AUX FOLLES Tour & More!
Christopher Sieber is currently playing the role of Albin/Zaza in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES on tour. Christopher's career has been unique and diverse. He has been on TV and Broadway and brings his own life's experiences to the role of Albin/Zaza. Christopher was also priviledged to play the role of Georges on Broadway. He is the only actor who has ever played both lead roles in LA CAGE. He shared with us his experiences and lessons he has learned over the years as a performer and details of his current role as Albin/Zaza.
You have done so much in your career in show business from TV roles to Broadway. Each role seems so different from the last. Tell us about some of the most memorable characters you played over the years. How do you prepare for each role?
Some of my favorite roles? Well, I loved being in Spamalot. That was heaven and playing Sir Dennis, Galahad, Prince Edward’s Father, the Black Knight; all of that; they were just absolutely ridiculous to be able to do that. And then of course Lord Farquaad in Shrek. I’m very proud of that one because I helped to create a lot of that part for the Broadway production. That was a lot of fun. So much of me went into those parts. The great thing now as you see it is done around the country and regional theatres, there’s a part of me that is now with those productions which is really kinda cool. As far as preparing for the part, I kind of like to see it, read it and throw out some ideas. During Spamalot, I had this opportunity to work with Mike Nichols and Eric Idle; he is of the Pythons and remember early on him saying, “Don’t tell me what’s funny, show me what’s funny.” You just throw things out there. It’s almost improv in a way but if something strikes you, just do it. If it sticks then great, but if it doesn’t work, abandon it. I like to throw things out there and see where it heads and make big mistakes. I like to fail because you can’t be brilliant unless you fail and I like to try things and stink up the place for a while and see what works and see what sticks.
Who are some of the most memorable people you have worked with?
I would have to say David Hyde Pierce is one of my favorites to work with because he is just so good in everything. Not only is he really funny on stage and screen, he is so generous and wonderful as a person and just to be with him, he is gracious to everyone he meets. He is truly an amazing person. And Hank Azaria because he was so much fun to work with as well. He is like a twelve year old. We always had to stop him from going off somewhere. He was a lot of fun to work with. Sara Ramirez was terrific. She was so much fun to play with. Judith Light. I loved working with Judith Light. She was so wonderful. There are so many more positive people that I’ve worked with over the years, more than negative. I think there are two negative people that I have worked with in my career that I never want to see again. The good thing about working with great people is that you get to take an essence of their performance of who they are. It’s not like you are stealing or anything, it’s that there’s something about them that you take away. Every great person I’ve worked with has contributed to where I am now because I was able to take something from them; that essence that they have and I’ve been able to use that in every part that I do even further.
You are currently playing Albin/ZaZa in the tour of La Cage…you have also played the other lead role of Georges. You are the only actor on Broadway to ever have accomplished this. Do you find one role more challenging than the other one? How does each character differ?
When I went into LA CAGE on Broadway, I was Georges and I had seven days to learn the part. I went into it very quickly; although I do like to work fast. I work really, really fast, that was really fast but, the thing about Georges is that he does drive the show. He is the one who is the ringmaster of everybody. He is the father, he’s the husband, he’s the business owner, he’s the director, he’s the producer, he’s the peacemaker; he’s all these things and he has to keep all these things up in the air all the time…keep going, keep going, keep going. It is a difficult part to play. As I played it, it was a difficult part to play. You have to realize that as Georges makes one decision, it affects another part of his life as producer, director, husband, father. It’s like a house of cards where he has to keep all these cards from falling down. So, it is a challenge because you have to portray it to the audience. Then Albin is a wounded, not necessarily wounded, but very needy and a very powerful force to be reckoned with but very insecure. As much fun as Albin is to play, it’s a very challenging part because there are so many things about the part. There are so many different characters that Albin has to be. He has to be mother so there is a lot there. I would say that Zaza and Albin are definitely more difficult to play. It’s a lot more fun but there is a lot to do. But, they are both fantastic parts. I love them both. I really do love them both.
Which one was your favorite one to portray?
I really did like my time as Georges on Broadway. I really did like that. I am enjoying as Albin and Zaza. I don’t really have a favorite. Although, sometimes I would like to go back to Georges just because I’m exhausted. You have to sing and belt out these songs. I think I have six songs in the show. It’s a lot to keep it going. It’s a lot of work physically, mentally, emotionally; vocally exhausting. I live like a nun. I don’t go out. I don’t drink. I go to bed after a show. I’m boring. I’m really boring. But, you have to do that in order to get through the part because it’s so demanding.
You are onstage for almost the entire show with many costume changes not to mention the demands of the role. How do you keep up your energy night after night?
It’s three and a half hours of non-stop. From when I arrive at the theatre, I begin make-up and then get in the costumes and then I go, go, go, go. No intermission either. I don’t even have an intermission so I get to go to the bathroom once because then it’s straight back into the make-up and the hair and all the crazy costumes and whatnot. When I leave the stage, I'm not just sitting back there doing nothing, I’m doing costumes and hair and all that stuff. To keep my energy up, I think I built that into the show. When I rehearse, I normally do it full out every time to build my stamina early on. Then there is a performance level that you have to keep it at which once you get the stamina up it’s not that difficult to keep it up. Also, caffeine helps.
What do you do mentally to prepare to go onstage every night? Do you have any routines or rituals?
I’m not one of those actors. I really like to just like to jump in the pool. I just go. I don’t get nervous. Well, I do get nervous, that would be a lie if I said I don’t get nervous before a performance. I’m not one of those guys who cares who is in the audience. Some people want to know if there is a celebrity in the audience. I don’t care. The only one I care about is my husband Kevin. If he is in the audience I think, “Well, he is there, so I have to be good now or he is going to tell me about it later.” But, as far as rituals go, I stretch before a show so I don’t injure myself and just make sure that I have the voice to do it. I’ll do a quick little tiny warm up; a ten second warm up and that’s it.
What do you enjoy most about touring with LA CAGE?
The greatest thing about doing a national tour is that you get to bring Broadway to people who sometimes can’t afford the tickets and the restaurants in New York City to see a Broadway show. We are able to bring Broadway to them. This is what we have, it’s a Broadway show that I did and it’s on the road. It looks exactly the same and it’s terrific. That’s the obvious opportunity to bring Broadway around the country which is terrific. Also what is great about it is to see cities around the country. Not a lot of people get to do that. Not too many people get to go from city to city for a year and see the great nation that we have here. Every city’s unique and the local restaurants are great and I love it.
What are some of the cities you found most interesting?
Memphis was awesome. I loved Memphis. West Palm was very nice because I went scuba diving there. I know I love San Antonio. I can’t wait to be there. I love that city. I had a great time twenty years ago there. Washington, DC was terrific. We had a lovely time there. We were there for four weeks. Des Moines, Iowa, oddly enough; we had a nice time in Des Moines. The people there were really good to us and we had a great time. Dallas is pretty nice too. I’m looking forward to getting to San Antonio.
What do you plan to do when you come to San Antonio?
There’s the Riverwalk that I just can’t wait to see. Last time I was there they had drained it. It was drained so it didn’t look like the beautiful Riverwalk that was on the brochures. It was more like a ditch so I’m looking forward to seeing that. There’s the Alamo; it was twenty one years ago when I was there. I’m going to have to refresh my memory and eat some great tex mex while I’m down there which I’m really excited about.
What advice do you have for someone considering a career in theatre?
There are a couple of things. First, I would say if you can do anything else, do it. Please do. If you find yourself being really good at something else other than this, do it. This is not an easy career to do. You’ve gotta be strong and you gotta believe in yourself. But, you also have to know and get used to a lot of rejection. It looks glamorous but when you start doing it, it’s not glamorous, it’s just work. It’s a lot of work. It never stops. When you get a Broadway show, it doesn’t mean that you made it at all. You’re not done. You need to go to the next Broadway show. You’ve gotta keep going. You are never safe. So, consider before you want to jump in head first. But if you have the bug and if you think if you couldn’t do it, you’d probably die then you probably should be in theatre. But, the good thing is there are other careers to do. If you turn out not to be an actor, there are so many things to do in theatre as far as stage management and crew and press people. You can always be involved in it. If the talent doesn’t work out for you, there are other things to do. There are always opportunities. It doesn’t necessarily mean you would need to be onstage to be part of it. Other than that, just keep going. Be truthful, be honest, be sincere, be nice to everybody because the person you were rude to at the last audition is probably going to be the next director or composer or musical director or casting director or producer; you don’t know. That has happened to me many times but I’m always nice to people. Keep going, you gotta keep going. Keep believing in yourself . Yes, it will be discouraging sometimes.
If you had not become an actor, what career would you have pursued?
I have no idea. I have no other skills. I don’t know actually. I have to figure that one out maybe because I’m getting old. Maybe I would be a spelunker, a cave dweller. Maybe I would work on a cruise ship. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this. That’s the problem. I got the bug because I’d rather die than not do this.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES tells the story of Georges, the owner of a glitzy nightclub in lovely Saint-Tropez, and his partner Albin, who moonlights as the glamorous chanteuse Zaza. When Georges’ son brings his fiancée’s conservative parents home to meet the flashy pair, the bonds of family are put to the test as the feather boas fly! LA CAGE is a tuneful and touching tale of one family’s struggle to stay together...stay fabulous...and above all else, stay true to themselves!
Age Appropriateness: ages 10 and up (Contains adult themes and language. Parental discretion advised.)
PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Kolnik