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Special SOUND OFF Interview: Sierra Boggess Talks REBECCA, PHANTOM & Christmas!

Today, as a well-earned holiday surprise for all of the millions of Broadway babies who read Broadway World all year long, we have a sneak preview of next year's upcoming InDepth InterView with leading lady stage superstar Sierra Boggess, best known to Broadway and West End audiences for her creation of the title role in THE LITTLE MERMAID, as well as originating the role of Christine in both PHANTOM VEGAS - the Las Vegas iteration of the international sensation THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, directed by original helmer Hal Prince - and LOVE NEVER DIES, the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber-penned musical sequel to the original thriller/romance tuner, as well as her most recent essaying of the role in the absolutely phantastic 25th anniversary production THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA AT THE ROYAL Albert Hall, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the US in 2012. Before we get to all about PHANTOM 25 - lest we forget, Ms. Boggess was also generous enough to tell us all about the show when it was still in rehearsals (you can read that chat here) - Boggess shares her affection for another recent InDepth InterView participant who shared the stage with her at the thrilling encore for PHANTOM 25 - the one and only Phantom of legend himself, Michael Crawford, as well as all about her participation in the yearly ASTEP charity concert NEW YORK CITY CHRISTMAS and the cast recording of it featuring herself along with Raul Esparza, Andy Karl, Orfeh, Constantine Maroulis and many more! Plus, insight into her preparations for her next Broadway role, that of Rebecca in the lavish stage spectacular REBECCA, as well as fond memories of working on PRINCESSES and much, much more!

The ASTEP Christmas album, NEW YORK CITY CHRISTMAS, featuring Sierra Boggess singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and a medley of "Still, Still, Still" and "The First Noel" with Lindsay Mendez, is available here.

You can pre-order the soundtrack, DVD and Blu-ray of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA AT THE ROYAL Albert Hall here.

A Real Life Princess

PC: Since we last spoke, Michael Crawford actually did this column (read it here) and we talked all about PHANTOM 25 and I know you consider him a significant inspiration for you to perform.

SB: Oh, yeah! He and I met actually the week prior. I went to see THE WIZARD OF OZ and I met him then. He is just an amazing man and I adore him. He was so gracious and so lovely and I knew that he was going to be in the audience on Sunday - he told me that he was going to be there watching it - and, I know how difficult that must be to watch the character that you created and loved with all your heart. To watch it 25 years on like he did must have been just amazing.

PC: He said as much to me, for sure!

SB: Did he? But, yes, we had quite a bit of time to talk and that meant so much to me because, as you know, he's one of the people who made me want to do this as a career.

PC: Indeed.

SB: But, it's not for PHANTOM, it's because of the movie of HELLO, DOLLY - he played Cornelius Hackl.

PC: Of course! We've spoken about this.

SB: That's what made me love him so much - he really did make me want to do this as a career. So, yeah, I got to say everything I ever wanted to say to him... [Laughs.]... and he was just so lovely!

PC: He really is.

SB: It was just unforgettable - to get to have that kind of time with someone that I look up to so much. [Pause.] He's an amazing man.

PC: Were you really impressed with WIZARD OF OZ as well?

SB: Yeah, I did. I was really proud of Danielle [Hope], who plays Dorothy, because I had come on to do one segment of the television show when they were doing the casting of Dorothy.

PC: OVER THE RAINBOW. With you and Ruthie Henshall and some others as mentors. It was a great show.

SB: Yeah, I met Danielle and three of the other contestants at that time and I just always said to them, "Anything I can do to help..." - you know, because I know how difficult it is to carry a show and stuff - "I want to be helpful and be there as a sounding board for anything that you go through as a new leading lady," and all that stuff.

PC: How considerate.

SB: Danielle and I have actually kept in touch and I thought she was just outstanding in the show.

PC: You can say that again.

SB: You know, she's not her age - she's an old soul. I felt really, really proud of her seeing her up there. I really enjoyed her, and, obviously, Michael, as well. It was great to see.

PC: It's a spectacular production. I'd love to hear you sing - even if only for fun- "The Red Shoes Blues" someday. What a gigantic song!

SB: Oh, yeah! That was so great.

PC: I have to tell you that the cast album of the ASTEP NEW YORK CITY CHRISTMAS is absolutely divine - one of the best Christmas albums ever, as far as I am concerned. It made my Top 10 countdown last year and was on the SOUND OFF Gift Giving Guide this year.

SB: Oh, awesome! Thank you.

PC: Your "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is one of the finest versions I've ever heard. What was it like taking on a song so connected to two of the greatest stars - Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand?

SB: Well, it's great! That's one of my favorite Christmas songs. Lynne Shankel, who did the album, really wanted us to choose songs that mean something to us. So, with that song, we put it in a soprano key so that we were not doing the Judy Garland version - which was nice.

PC: Exactly. You made it your own.

SB: I love that song so much and I love Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, so, it feels like I am just invoking them along with me… [Laughs.]… to sing that song. So, it's a really big privilege and I loved getting to do that album. And, I love what ASTEP does in the world - I have such a personal connection with that, anyway - so, it's just about celebrating ASTEP and celebrating Christmas and so I am really happy that the album is out there. I hope it continues to have a good life and that people will continue to buy it so that the money can go to help this organization.

PC: I hope someday they add bonus tracks. What songs did you sing in the show this year?

SB: Well, on the album, I sing two songs - "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and, on the album and last night, I did a duet with Lindsay Mendez called "Still, Still, Still/The First Noel".

PC: A genius musical pairing.

SB: Yeah, that's one of my favorite tracks and duets to do. Lindsay and I were in a show called PRINCESSES together - which was the first musical I did out of college when I moved to New York. It was having its pre-Broadway tryout at the 5th Avenue Theater. I mean, every single girl in that show - and that show was a cast of all girls except for two men - every single one of us was new to the scene and every single one of us has gone on to do amazing things.

PC: How wonderful to hear.

SB: Everyone has done Broadway or tours - everyone. I mean, I am actually going to LYSISTRATA JONES tonight and Patti Murin is the lead in that.

PC: She got great reviews.

SB: It's her big break as a leading lady on Broadway in LYSISTRATA JONES - and she was also in PRINCESSES with me.

PC: No way!

SB: She was. So, I am so excited to go support her tonight. You know, stuff like that is really, really cool. [Laughs.]

PC: And Lindsay is another.

SB: Lindsay and I getting to sing is just really fun because it's about getting back together and celebrating where you started and where you came from. And, my sister plays cello and she played with us last night.

PC: She's done some Broadway shows with you, too.

SB: Yes, she played in the pit orchestra of LITTLE MERMAID - she was a sub, so a few times she was in there while I was onstage. But, it's not the same as getting to perform next to each other and, you know, all of that stuff.

PC: Definitely not.

SB: That's another one of the things I love, too - she plays cello on one of the tracks I sing on on the album. So, it's really amazing to have that.

PC: An audio family photo album, in a way!

SB: Yeah! And, ASTEP is a very personal thing for her, especially because she is very involved with it. So, that's very neat, too.

PC: So, were you pleased with the show - weren't there group numbers, too?

SB: Yeah, there are group numbers. And, then, everyone sang from the album - everything from the album was sung last night.

PC: And Raul Esparza did "In The Bleak Midwinter" and "White Christmas", as well, right?

SB: Yes. Yes. He was great.

PC: Do you enjoy working with him? He's done this column - the most extensive interview to date, actually.

SB: Oh, yeah - he's such a lovely person. So lovely and so talented.

PC: So, you've done PRINCESSES and A LITTLE PRINCESS, then?

SB: [Laughs.] Yeah, I actually recorded A LITTLE PRINCESS for Andrew Lippa; Matthew Wilder and David Zippel did PRINCESSES. Cheri Steinkuehler, who wrote the book of SISTER ACT, was the book writer for PRINCESSES.

PC: Wasn't PRINCESSES a very contemporary score?

SB: Yes, it was very contemporary. A very pop score. It was really fun, though. It was wonderful. I was so naïve and young and new to the business that I don't know all that happened with why it didn't ever come to Broadway, but, it's another show like LEGALLY BLONDE - stuff like that; a really fun evening at the theatre. It was a really, really talented cast.

PC: Brent Barrett was in that, too, correct?

SB: Yes, that's when Brent and I met - I was just a chorus girl; I was a featured ensemble member in the show and Brent was the big star. Then, we went on and did PHANTOM together.

PC: You both created the roles in Las Vegas.

SB: Yeah, I mean, it's just amazing. And Lynne Shankel was our music director!

PC: What a small world!

SB: [Laughs.] It's crazy. It's crazy.

PC: And David Zippel did THE WOMAN IN WHITE with Andrew Lloyd Webber right after PRINCESSES, as well.

SB: Right! Oh, yeah - there are no accidents in this life! Everything is connected - no question about it!

PC: So, you and Lynne met on PRINCESSES?

SB: Yeah, yeah.

PC: Her arrangements on the album are absolutely sublime - some of the best I've ever heard.

SB: Oh, she's extraordinary - she's absolutely extraordinary.

PC: So, REBECCA is next for you, first thing in 2012, correct?

SB: Yes, we start rehearsals in February.

PC: So, is it true there are three directors?

SB: No, no - it's Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello co-directing.

PC: Is Graciela Daniele still involved?

SB: Yes, she is involved - she is doing the choreography.

PC: Have they decided on whether or not they are doing the staircase fire effect?

SB: Oh, I wouldn't know a thing about that!

PC: Apparently it adds a couple million more to the budget if they do.

SB: I don't know - I have no idea.

PC: What a year it's been - MASTER CLASS with Tyne Daly this Summer, PHANTOM 25 on Blu-ray and now the title role in REBECCA on Broadway. REBECCA is your first musical on Broadway since your debut in THE LITTLE MERMAID. Are you excited?

SB: Oh, I am so excited about it. It will be great. I have been involved with REBECCA since 2009 so I am excited that it is going to have a life on Broadway. I think that it deserves to have a life, so we will see what happens! I love taking on characters like her and all of that, so it will be a really great time and there are some really great people involved.

PC: It's based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel and not on the Hitchcock film version - much more gothic and romantic and less thriller.

SB: Oh, yes, yes. Definitely.

PC: It's a very varied and entertaining score in its original version, so will it be staying pretty much intact?

SB: Yes. Yes.

PC: Christopher Hampton is doing this new translation for English audiences, yes? I've heard he's done some very good work.

SB: Yes, he helped with the translation because, obviously, the lyrics are being translated from German. So, he has helped with the book writing and all of that stuff - the book is wonderful; it really is. And, yes, the music is really great. [Pause.] So, yeah - we will see how Broadway embraces it.

PC: Will it be significantly re-orchestrated for Broadway?

SB: I have no idea - we haven't even started rehearsals yet.

PC: REBECCA is shaping up to have a great cast so far.

SB: Yes, yes - and, they are bringing Tam Mutu over from London. He will be playing Max De Winter. He and I met doing LOVE NEVER DIES.

PC: Isn't he your betrothed in real life?

SB: [Laughs.] Yes, he is! So, it's really, really exciting for me. Also, Donna English is playing Beatrice - Max's sister - and Donna and I are working together again for the first time since, guess what, PRINCESSES!

PC: No way! How funny is that?

SB: We are being united! I am so thrilled about that. She's just one of the greatest ladies I've ever met.

PC: What about James Barbour?

SB: Obviously, James Barbour is so wonderful - he and I met doing the last reading of it in March of this year. So, yeah, it's a great cast. And, with Michael Blakemore and Francesca involved…

PC: You and Francesca have worked together before on THE LITTLE MERMAID.

SB: I am excited to work with Francesca again, obviously, and, to work with Michael - who is one of the people on the list of directors I want to work with.

PC: In the same league as Hal Prince and Jack O'Brien and some of the other greats you have worked with recently.

SB: Yeah. Yeah.

PC: Michael Crawford and I were discussing some of the effects that were tried out in rehearsals for PHANTOM and I was curious if Hal Prince tried out any new effects for PHANTOM VEGAS - the 7-foot stilts for Red Death or the doves for "All I Ask Of You" or the white horse for the title song?

SB: No. The only thing that they put in for Vegas which was something that Hal said he always had wanted to do, but they didn't have the technology then, was Raoul at the end of the show when he had the noose around his neck. It's the same as it is in the stage show, but, in Vegas, there's a cage that comes up and suspends him in the air and knives come out of the sides of it - and, that's how he's trapped.

PC: Wow.

SB: That's a really cool effect that they only have in Vegas. But, that's the only thing that was put in that Hal said he had really wanted from the very beginning. But, obviously, PHANTOM VEGAS is an extraordinary production and people should absolutely go see that one. It's amazing what they have done with the show out there.

PC: It really is.

SB: Just the updated effects and the fire and all that stuff - plus, the theater was built for that show, so it's made to look like the inside of the Paris Opera House. It's just beautiful. So, it's really a great way to experience PHANTOM.

PC: It's so fantastic there are three distinct versions of PHANTOM now, all currently available to see - the Broadway and West End version; PHANTOM VEGAS; and, now, the one for all time, PHANTOM 25.

SB: That's right! What's great about it being filmed for all time is that this show is something that should be forever. And, if people can't afford to pay and go see a Broadway show or a ticket to see it in Vegas or whatever, they can buy it - and, obviously, a DVD is much cheaper to buy. The DVD is such a great production. It's amazing.

PC: Beyond words.

SB: But, also, that's not taking anything away from seeing it live - because if you can see it live, you must! There is nothing like seeing live theatre.

PC: Nothing. Sierra, you are the true angel of music. You are as great a singer as an actress - we can't wait for what's next!

SB: Thank you, thank you, Pat! You are so kind and I really appreciate what you do. Have a very merry Christmas! Bye.

Now, be sure to see Sierra Boggess and Lindsay Mendez perform "Still, Still, Still" and "The First Noel" from Monday's ASTEP CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK benefit! Merry Christmas!


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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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