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SPOTLIGHT ON PHANTOM 25: Interview: Sierra Boggess

Today we are talking to the leading lady of the new PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 25th Anniversary At The Albert Hall - airing live in Fathom movie theaters around the world this Sunday - Christine Daae - the sensational new star on the rise, Sierra Boggess! In this extensive discussion about all things PHANTOM we dissect the starring role in the biggest musical theatre sensation of all time and Sierra illustrates her journey with the character of Christine from originating it in director Hal Prince's PHANTOM VEGAS in 2006 to inspiring the role (Christine, ten years later) in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical sequel to PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LOVE NEVER DIES, in the West End - a musical which, incidentally, is also being filmed this week (though not simulcast in movie theaters like PHANTOM 25); Simon Lee's Australian production - all the way up until now - and her two starring roles on Broadway in between, as, respectively, a mermaid and a student of Maria Callas - as she prepares for preserving the role of the protagonist in this filmed live onstage super-production for the ages. Additionally, Sierra and I touch on her work in THE LITTLE MERMAID and MASTER CLASS on Broadway as well as her first audition for original PHANTOM and PHANTOM VEGAS director Hal Prince, plus recollections of "instant chemistry" with LOVE NEVER DIES and PHANTOM 25 co-star and the Phantom himself, Ramin Karimloo, as well as hinting at some special surprises Sunday may very well hold in store - original PHANTOM stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman included - and much, much more!

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA LIVE AT THE Albert Hall is a Fathom Event showing at hundreds of movie theaters around the world starting this Sunday, October 2. To see the nearest available Fathom-equipped multiplexes in your area and to pre-order tickets to PHANTOM 25 please go to the official site here. Be sure to continue checking out BroadwayWorld for more interviews, views, reviews and more as the Phantom takes over cinemas worldwide in this epic once-in-a-lifetime theatrical event!

Let Me Hear You Sing

PC: As we saw with LES MISERABLES last year, there is a huge audience out there for these live Fathom movie theater broadcasts - and a lot of that is thanks to GLEE. Although MASTER CLASS is not necessarily kid-friendly, do you see a new young audience out there?

SB: Yeah, I didn't really notice it with MASTER CLASS - but, having come from the world of Disney and stuff, I am so used to having young audiences… [Laughs.]

PC: Definitely.

SB: So, yeah, MASTER CLASS felt like it was a different type of person coming to see the show, but, had it been during the school year and stuff, I think we would have seen a lot of school groups and things like that coming.

PC: Undoubtedly.

SB: I do think that's interesting, though.

PC: It's an amazing age with Blu-ray technology and these HD simulcasts in theaters.

SB: Yes, it is.

PC: Dan Diamond, the VP of Fathom Entertainment - who did LES MIZ last year and COMPANY this year and now this - recently did this column and spoke so excitedly about this event. So, do you feel privileged to be doing the starring role in the biggest musical of all time for DVD and Blu-ray?

SB: Yes! Yes, I do. I am so honored. When Andrew asked me to do it, it was back in November - that's how long I've known! [Laughs.]

PC: Wow! What a secret!

SB: Yeah, I had to keep it quiet and everything - but, I was over the moon when he asked me to do it because, as you said, it is; it is one of the greatest female roles there is. I am so honored and I just love the show so much. I love the music. And, I love the fact that the world is going to get to see it be celebrated. I just think it's the coolest thing in the whole world.

PC: It really is. I know Andrew Lloyd Webber has been supervising the LOVE NEVER DIES filming in Australia this week, too, so is he at the Royal Albert Hall yet?

SB: Yeah, he's here. So, he flies back and forth - as is a lot of his life anyway.

PC: The life of the Lord.

SB: Yes! [Laughs.] But, yeah, he's been here and I got to see him. You know, we've only been rehearsing for ten days for this massive production, so we haven't even had a dress rehearsal - which, I'm sure, he will be at - yet. So, it's all happening pretty quick!

PC: It's so wonderful that everyone will be able to see this in movie theaters, as well, especially those new to the show.

SB: Oh, yeah! Sure. That's so great.

PC: You've now originated Christine in the three most unique PHANTOM-related enterprises - PHANTOM VEGAS, LOVE NEVER DIES and, now, PHANTOM 25. Hal Prince is perhaps the greatest director of musicals…

SB: Yes, I agree.

PC: So what was auditioning for him like?

SB: I will never forget that time. I had pretty much just graduated from college and I was out on the road doing LES MIZ and I was in the ensemble and just having a great time. So, when this audition came around for PHANTOM, it was great. I was so excited, because it really is a dream role. And, then, when I realized that my actual audition was for Hal Prince and Gillian Lynne and Andrew Lloyd Webber I was like, "Wow!"

PC: A big "Wow" moment if there ever were any.

SB: I will never forget that after I sang "Think Of Me", Hal Prince said a classic Hal Prince line…

PC: What did he say?

SB: [Hal Prince Voice.] "Well, that was swell!"

PC: That's so cool.

SB: I was like, "Wow! I always heard that Hal said swell and he said it to me in my audition!" And, I booked it an hour later - I had a call saying that I had got the part. And, I was so pleased that I got to work with him. You know, most of the time you don't get to actually work with Hal Prince when you are working the take-over of a role, but because we were creating a brand new production of it I got to work, hands-on, with Hal, and he set the show on me. Gillian Lynne set the choreography on me. And, then, Andrew Lloyd Webber flew out to Vegas - and that's when he and I first met. It was a spectacular time in my life and, to get to come back to it now and revisit this character that literally changed the course of my career is so, so special.

PC: Have you ever performed the complete version of PHANTOM, especially since the Vegas version cuts about 45 minutes?

SB: Well, it doesn't cut 45 minutes - it actually only cuts about 20 minutes. It's a 95 minute show.

PC: Right. No intermission [which accounts for about 45 minutes total].

SB: Yeah, so, I've never done the full version of the show - but, most of my stuff [as Christine] was completely intact. They didn't have to cut that much out of it, anyway, because, you know, the show isn't LES MIZ length. [Laughs.]

PC: Definitely not. So, PHANTOM 25 will be the complete version of the show performed? Will there be any cuts at all?

SB: No, no - it's the complete, full version.

PC: How magnificent. Now that you've done PHANTOM VEGAS, LOVE NEVER DIES and, now, PHANTOM 25, do you have a favorite of them all?

SB: You know, I don't have a favorite! I get asked that a lot. I love the character - and, in all the shows, it's still the same character; so, she's my favorite. The character is my favorite. And, each show is so different - because, obviously, LOVE NEVER DIES is ten years later and how she has changed and all that stuff; she is a different type of woman, clearly.

PC: Indeed.

SB: So, I enjoyed both. I love that I get to go back to the innocence of her in this one and remember what that is. [Pause.] So, she's my favorite is my answer, really. [Laughs.]

PC: That is a true credit to your acting versatility and adaptable beauty to be able to play a role ten years in the past!

SB: [Laughs.] Yeah, it's pretty cool.

PC: I think LOVE NEVER DIES is Andrew Lloyd Webber's best score since PHANTOM - do you feel it will be rediscovered in the future since it perhaps was not given its due now?

SB: I hope so. I think it is one of the most beautiful scores that Andrew has ever written. I loved singing it every night. It's absolutely stunning.

PC: You can say that again.

SB: But, to answer your question: yeah, I hope that people - I mean, people who know the show love it; the score is absolutely stunning - so, I hope that more people give it a chance and listen to it. It is incredible. It's all of Andrew's passion in that score. I am so glad you love it; and, I love it, too!

PC: The rumor is that this PHANTOM 25 Blu-ray will be packaged with the Australian LOVE NEVER DIES and the whole experience of both shows will then be available for everyone. Does that sound enticing to you?

SB: Oh, yeah. Sure! That's one idea - you know, anything's possible!

PC: Do you have a particular moment in either PHANTOM or LOVE NEVER DIES that is especially meaningful to you? It seems as though Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote LOVE NEVER DIES for your voice much like he wrote the original PHANTOM for Sarah Brightman.

SB: Yeah - I mean, there is an element of that because Andrew did know my voice really well and I was in from the beginning of the creation of it. But, the score had already been written, so it is really from his heart and all of that - but, it fit my voice so well that I think it was sort of a great match.

PC: To say the least.

SB: To be honest, my favorite moments in LOVE NEVER DIES and my favorite moments in PHANTOM are not when it is my big time to shine or anything.

PC: Such as?

SB: Like, I was obsessed with, in the second act of LOVE NEVER DIES, when the Phantom comes in and sings a reprise of "Till I Hear You Sing" - and, it's called "Let Me Hear You Sing" and he is convincing her to sing for him. And, I loved that moment onstage because it allowed me, as an actress, to just to sit and listen and be affected by that. But, in PHANTOM, I love "Music Of The Night" as well, and being onstage with the Phantom and doing that part and really just letting all of that just penetrate me as the character and as the actress is really something I enjoy. I really enjoy that.

PC: The end of Act I of LOVE NEVER DIES has one of the great Andrew Lloyd Webber moments with your "Tomorrow night / I'll sing with all my might" - it's so special and you do it so well.

SB: Oh, thank you.

PC: Is there a moment that says "This Is Christine" to you? Do you think "Think Of Me" presents her to the audience and that is it or do you think there is another moment where she shows who she really is?

SB: Well, I think as soon as she appears onstage people know who she is. "Think Of Me" is the first thing you hear her sing, so that's Christine and there's definitely no confusion about who it is.

PC: A great establishing song. When in the show does Christine find herself and the voice the Phantom helps her find, do you think?

SB: I think that's in the second act of the show - she gets pushed to sing because Raoul basically abandons her and she has to decide, then, you know, "Am I going to save his life and my life and stop the terror?" It's all up to her. So, she then goes and sings "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" in the graveyard - because she goes back to what she knows, which is her father.

PC: Yes.

SB: She deals - finally - with the fact that her father has died in that moment. And, that's a huge moment for her because she has been holding on to that and thinking maybe the Phantom is the angel her father has sent for her and all of that. [Pause.] So, it's definitely the turning point for her in "Wishing".

PC: You really have a deep understanding of this character. Do you fear Christine is going to start becoming a part of you?

SB: [Laughs.] Yeah! Well, I did the Vegas version five years ago, so I'm really finding that it's like rediscovering it all over again now, you know?

PC: A rediscovery.

SB: I am a different person than from five years ago, so all the different things inform it… I mean, since I did Christine, I did LITTLE MERMAID, and, then, I flew to London and lived in London and did LOVE NEVER DIES - then, I went back and did MASTER CLASS. So much has happened - so, I think that is what makes me feel even more inspired to do it now. Had I been playing it for five years running, I don't know if I would have the same view - I wouldn't be looking at it with new eyes. This, I am - because I am revisiting a character that I created in the new production in Vegas five years ago. I am inspired by that and I am revisiting what Hal would say about the part and all of that stuff - and, I do feel like I have a very deep understanding of this girl. She is special. She is very special and she has been a huge part of my life. I love her. All I want to do is celebrate her and the show. That's really all I want to do. [Laughs.]

PC: THE LITTLE MERMAID and MASTER CLASS were like the sorbet - and, now, we have five years of your experience informing the role of Christine.

SB: Yeah! Yeah.

PC: You have such palpable chemistry with your co-star Ramin Karimloo. Can you tell me a little bit about your collaboration onstage with him in this PHANTOM versus LOVE NEVER DIES?

SB: He and I met in 2008 to create our parts for LOVE NEVER DIES and we had instant chemistry - everyone saw it; it was just one of those things. It was just one of those things.

PC: Magic.

SB: Yes. To get back now and do these roles with each other is a dream come true for both of us and to get to really come full-circle is really, really special for us. We are great friends, so that makes it even greater. It's such a dream to have respect for each other in this business - and, we both do - so, it's wonderful. We work together really well. We haven't seen each other since March and when we started blocking "Music Of The Night" we were just right back in it like we never left. So, it's definitely a dream situation.

PC: So now you get to go back in time together and go back to the way the characters first met.

SB: Yeah!

PC: Do you feel a certain amount of pressure since this is production for the ages? This is it.

SB: Well, there is always pressure! There is pressure with everything - there is not one production I have done that didn't have massive pressure. [Laughs.]

PC: This is true.

SB: But, I don't focus on it. I won't let myself focus on it.

PC: Mind over matter.

SB: I get asked all the time, "Is there more pressure because there are cameras on?" And, the answer is no, because it is not an option to be aware of the pressure around me; it's not an option. My option is to deliver this character, this show - and that's it! [Laughs.]

PC: Right - if anyone can do it here and now, it's you!

SB: You know, I am so pleased that I did MASTER CLASS before this because I am taking Maria Callas's advice.

PC: How much more perfect can it get than doing the play about the greatest opera star to playing the greatest female operatic role in musical theatre?

SB: Absolutely! Absolutely. There are no accidents! No accidents at all! [Laughs.]

PC: I saw your lovely tweet about when you met Michael Crawford after seeing him in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Could you recount that for me?

SB: It was so great. He was everything that I ever wanted him to be. You know, I had been desperate to meet him - it's not even just PHANTOM; it's because of HELLO DOLLY! That was the movie musical that made me want to do this business. I mean, I have that movie memorized! And, what he did in it is so spectacular.

PC: It really is.

SB: When I met him, he was just such an incredible man - such an incredible performer and an incredible man and he has such a great spirit. He was everything that I wanted him to be.

PC: I'd love to hear you do "The Red Shoes Blues" someday.

SB: Oh, yeah, yeah! It would be cool. There are some great new songs in that.

PC: Speaking of HELLO, DOLLY!, are you a Barbra Streisand fan?

SB: I am her biggest fan! Didn't you know that? I am her biggest fan in the whole world! I love her to death. She is my inspiration for being in this business - one hundred percent. [Pause.] In pretty much every interview I talk about her! [Laughs.]

PC: Well, I brought it up so it's OK!

SB: You know, I invoke her onstage with me a lot of the time because I think that she is untouchable in what she does. I like to invoke people to come with me as we do these very high-pressure situations and she is someone who has inspired me greatly.

PC: You are carving out a revolutionary career like hers - and, at such a young age! As someone in your age group, let me say: you are repping our generation so well, Sierra.

SB: Oh, thank you so much! [Laughs.]

PC: Could you define collaboration in terms of your experience working on PHANTOM over the years - especially since you've only had ten days on the PHANTOM 25 so far, so what is that like?

SB: I mean, it's really about everybody coming together and being really prepared and bringing everything they can possibly give to the show. And, then, there's everyone else - the creative team is there helping us get it all into place. Different talents from all over the place - all over the world - are here to do this. So, it really is just about everyone coming together and creating a massive celebration for an amazing composer - and the original director, Hal, and the original cast - and, this is not a new production; it's a celebration. And, I think everyone is going into this with that feeling and that mindset - the entire ensemble is comprised with people who have played these roles before. We have Carlottas and Piangis and Christines and Phantoms and Girys from all different companies and from all these years. And, they are all here to celebrate the show. It's a joy. It really is.

PC: Is the rumor true that there may be cameos by the original Phantom and the original Christine - Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman?

SB: Well, I certainly hope so!

PC: So, Sarah Brightman, too?

SB: Honestly, I couldn't say - but, I certainly hope so. I know that there are going to be special guest appearances.

PC: I've only heard that Michael Crawford was confirmed, so this is news! Interesting

SB: Well… nothing is confirmed as far as I know! [Laughs.]

PC: Ramin will be doing this column next, so I appreciate getting both sides of both shows from you two.

SB: Oh, that will be great!

PC: What's next for you? Are you just going to take a month off after this?

SB: No, actually - I get right back into some new projects when I get to New York. Right away I have a week off, then I am doing some readings and some workshops of some new shows - as you do in New York. But, there is always stuff happening, but it's too hard to say because with this business you never really know. So, I go one day at a time.

PC: And PHANTOM 25 will have a whole new set? Have you seen it yet? I have only seen the amazing drawings and sketches.

SB: I actually haven't even seen it yet! I've seen the drawings, too. But, I haven't seen it because we are still in rehearsal - we have been rehearsing in a studio. It's supposedly really incredible.

PC: And a 100 piece orchestra, yes?

SB: Yeah, yeah!

PC: That's the ideal accoutrement for a voice like yours.

SB: [Laughs.]

PC: As is amply apparent on the LOVE NEVER DIES cast album, your voice records so pristinely. Do you see a pop album or a solo album in the future?

SB: I would definitely consider doing a solo album, but it's just about finding the time to do exactly what I would want to do, you know?

PC: Without a doubt. This was so, so fantastic. You are so sweet and so eloquent. Break a leg on Sunday, Sierra!

SB: Oh, thank you so much, Pat. It was my pleasure! I hope you enjoy the show! All my best. Take care. Bye.


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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)

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