BWW Interview: Sierra Boggess Talks EVER AFTER at Alliance Theatre
There's enough excitement in Atlanta this month to fill a fleet of pumpkin-carriages as Alliance Theatre mounts the highly-anticipated regional premiere of Ever After, a musical adaptation of the popular 1998 film of the same name which made its premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse in 2015. Ever After, loosely based on the Cinderella fairy tale, tells the story of Danielle de Barbarac, the Cinderella-esque young daughter of a 16th-century landowner who's forced into slavery by her stepmother after the unexpected death of her father. When a chance encounter with a prince stirs up considerable excitement for the young servant girl, Danielle finds that she might have the strength to take on her stepmother...and the world. Broadway diva Sierra Boggess, most known for her acclaimed turns as Ariel in The Little Mermaid and Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera, will take on the role of the vibrant Danielle. BroadwayWorld caught up with Boggess to talk about the show.
I read an article just a few days ago that mentioned that it was the 11th anniversary of the opening of The Little Mermaid on Broadway. That got me to thinking how it seems like only yesterday that the show opened because it's so memorable but also like a million years ago because the 11 years since have been so filled with great and diverse characters for you. What drew you to this character - Danielle in Ever After?
It's funny you described all of that like that because that's how I felt when I found out. We were in tech rehearsal for Ever After and then... Actually, BroadwayWorld, I think, was the first that posted that it was 11 years ago, and I was like "Oh, my God." It does feel like yesterday, and also it's like "Wow. That was 11 years ago." I find that what's so interesting about this time is that Ever After is a piece that I have loved for so long. I did workshops and readings and labs, and for me, Ever After is one of these shows and Danielle is one of these roles that comes along once in a lifetime, and I've been saying since I've been rehearsing this show that I haven't done a role that's this demanding. It feels very similar to Ariel. What is required of me to play Danielle, the amount of work that it is, feels similar to that, so it strangely feels like a homecoming or something.
That's really cool. I'm interested to know whether or not you were a fan of the film when you began working on the project.
Yes! The film was like my generation's...everybody in my age group knew and loved the film, and I remember watching it on VHS. I think we had it on VHS, and... Yes, I loved the film. It was one of those that I loved because Danielle is so... she really truly is saving herself and the people she loves, and it really isn't... the love story is something that happens to her... which love does, I think. I don't know. It just feels so real, and I also love that there's Leonardo DaVinci in it.
That's one of the things I love about the film, too.
Yeah. I always loved it. And also, there were certain lines in the film that I would remember, too. People still do. Yeah, I did love the film.
You mentioned the demands of the role earlier. What have those been, specifically?
She's very physically demanding because she is a tomboy. I mean, she...honestly, it just makes me feel like me because it's like...oh...these parts of me that... I mean, I grew up climbing trees, and I grew up in Colorado, so it's like all I did was play outside and like barefoot and all this. She is a true tomboy. She's raised by her father. Her mother died when she was born, so she never knew her mother, but her father raised her until he died when she was eight years old and that, to me, is what stopped her growth in terms of wanting love because she learned right then at eight years old that she couldn't rely on my heart in order to survive because everything that I love goes away, and so there's the emotional depth of her that I love tapping into and that is heartbreaking. It's also what she turned into. "Alright, so this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to have this stepfamily, this stepmother who literally hates me and acts like I don't exist and resents me for the father dying, and I am going to work in this house that I grew up in because we need help, and so I'm going to work in this house, and these other servants in the house are my family, and I'm going to, you know, just like pull myself up by my bootstraps and make this happen." Physically, she sword-fights, she dances. You name it, she does it. Because, again, she was raised by her father, so she was raised by a man, and so she knows what hard work is and she goes out and she shoots the pheasant. You know, she does the work, the physical labor and all that stuff, so there are a number of things like that. Plus, there's the emotional journey.
Yeah, it sounds demanding.
That's what I meant when I was comparing it to Ariel. You have to learn these other skills.
I'm sure that's rewarding to come away from a project and feel like you've completely immersed yourself in a world.
It's very rewarding.
So, this is a Cinderella story. Why do you think we keep returning to the Cinderella story so many times? What resonates with us about this story?
I think the Cinderella story, in general, is interesting to us because it shows that you can be born one way...I guess, especially as Americans...the American dream... you can work and have it all. You can work and start in one class and become something else, but I also think it's not a man's Cinderella story. You know, it's that this woman became. Especially with our version, I really do say to myself, "This is not because a prince came and saved me. The love is just enhancing my life." Which is...our Cinderella is just very real and very tangible and she's not looking for... She doesn't sing a song about "if there was only a man. And then my life would make more sense. I love my life, and I love helping, and anytime that something happens that they put a roadblock in front of me, let me figure out another way to do this, and because of that . . ." Also, the prince falls in love with Danielle in this story because Danielle is just ruthlessly who she is. So, because she is quirky and because she is so strong and unafraid and brave and all these things, the man who has everything is like "What is that? That is interesting to me." And so it really is very female empowering, and I think we love that, especially at this time that we are in.
That's really inspiring.
I can't say enough amazing things about this musical. I just can't. I love it so much.
I've seen some of the promo videos Alliance has been releasing where you're singing some of the songs, and they're just wonderful. I couldn't help noticing that this musical seems to play to one of your big strengths. I saw you at 54 Below a few years ago, and I was just struck, seeing you in that intimate environment, by how funny you are. These songs allow you to really showcase that talent for comedy that you have.
Thank you. There is so much humor in this piece, and people who know me in real life are always like "Why can't you do a role where people know how funny you are?" And, you know, it's that ingénue thing that people think that like if you play the ingénue, then it can't be funny or she mustn't have any personality. It's just not so, and with this, especially, there's so much humor. It feels like sitting in a comfortable armchair and putting on a really nice comfortable sweater. You know, it feels so good to breathe life into her and also for her to be a vessel for me, too. Yes, I get to be... There's comedy. It's a comedy!
You've been attached to this musical since 2013, and I know that everybody wants to know...is this Broadway-bound. It seems like it is.
It should be. Of course, I'm not the person to ask, but this show, to me... I've got to give a huge shout out to the writers and to our director, as well. There is nothing like this on Broadway, and there hasn't been anything like this. Yes, it is a Cinderella story, but it is not the Cinderella story that people think. It is not vanilla. It's not even the Disney... There are no mice. There is real magic, you know. This is the time for this piece. This is the time for this character. Yeah... There is no score like this. I'm telling you, this score is one of the most... I have gotten to sing some of the most beautiful music in my life. This music is heart music. It is soul music. The lyrics and the book are funny and clever. Yes, I get to be funny and clever, but I can only do that because of the writing. Not only that, it is all women. It is a female writer. It is a female composer. It is a female director. It is a female choreographer. It is a female set designer. It is a female costume designer. It is a team of women. Kickass women. It is time. It is time for this.
I can hardly wait to see it. It sounds amazing.
EVER AFTER stars Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid) as Danielle de Barbarac, Tony Award-nominee David Garrison (The Visit) as Leonardo da Vinci, Jeff McCarthy (The Pirate Queen, Urinetown) as Pierre Malette, Tim Rogan as Prince Henry, and Drama Desk Award-winner Rachel York (Head Over Heels, Disaster!) as Baroness Rodmilla du Ghent.
EVER AFTER will open the Alliance Theatre's newly renovated Coca-Cola Stage and run from January 15 - February 17, 2019.