Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
February 4, 2014
Most Broadway stars making their cabaret debut at 54 Below do an autobiographical show, letting us know what show tunes and pop songs influenced their youth and their path to the New York stage. Christopher Sieber, three time Tony nominee, is no exception except his show entitled “Minnesota Boy Does Well – Tales from Center and Back Stage” is a laugh riot. With great dialogue and musical support by musicians, especially his music director, Joey Chancey, who recites funny dialogue with him at times and plays him great music cues, the handsome Sieber starts out with his childhood lip-synching to recordings behind his living room’s draped curtains, stage managed by his younger brother who also would play the records he was lip-synching. The first one is so funny you wonder how he could top it. Sieber lip-synchs to Dinah Washington’s record of “Destination Moon” complete with black gestures and struts! His second number is Neil Diamond’s big number from the re-make of “The Jazz Singer” but he actually sings in Diamond’s voice and manner! In the middle of the number his parents come home and he sees the dreaded look on their face: their greatest fear, the 8 year old is making his younger brother a Lesbian stage manager!
His big desire is to leave the 642 population of Wyoming, Michigan. His opportunity happens when Davy Jones stops in front of his house in his Monkees’ van and asks directions to the freeway. Jones takes him with him to the St. Louis Muni where he gets his AEA card playing Oliver to Jones’ Artful Dodger. All the kids were housed in a seedy Holiday Inn that did have a Karioki bar where they all sang. One day the drunk Jones showed up singing “Daydream Believer” and Sieber’s mimicking of that performance is even more funny. After doing more shows at the St. Louis Muni (including “Bye Bye Birdie”) he got to make his Broadway debut as the Prince, the romantic interest in “The Triumph of Love,” appearing with Jenny Egan, Roger Bart, Kevin Chamberlain, F. Murray Abraham and Betty Buckley. He kept a daily diary and he recites from the first day. He loved being in the show and sang a tongue-twisting number from it “Issue in Question.” Unfortunately, the show ran only twelve weeks.
His next step: Hollywood where he landed the lead in a series as the father of the Olsen Twins. It only ran one season. Back to Broadway and Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast.” He began a section called “For Every Twinkling Light There’s A Broken Hip on Broadway,” a series of injuries in every one of his Broadway shows: actually breaking his finger on stage in “Beauty and the Beast,” and doing the flagon dance getting his hand smashed again and again; getting his hand stuck in the elevator lock in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” so he has to play the rest of the show with blood cursing down his sleeve, and singing “Agony” from the revival of “Into the Woods” with Vanessa Williams, covering the Prince and going on one night without rehearsal . Unfortunately he did not know how to operate the blood distribution when the ugly sisters cut their feet, sending blood spewing out into the audience, on the conductor, and his co-stars!
Sieber marshals his forces and gets into “Spamalot” and sings his show stopping number “Always Look on the Bright Side” and gets stabbed one night by Tim Curry! He gets his great part in “Shrek” as the tiny Lord Farquaad, doing the whole show on his knees. He did his big number, “Ballad of Farquaad” on Radio City Music Hall’s tremendous stage and the accident that happened that night on that stage before 6,000 in the audience and millions who watched it on TV. He stated he can’t go into a musical night in any gay bar where they don’t immediately recognize him from the playing of that telecast which is on You.tube.
The best part of this droll show is his tale of being called to see “La Cage aux Folles” when Harvey Fierstein replaced the original Alban and Jeffry Tambor quit only after a few performances. Fierstein greets him in a grand manner in his dressing room with a priceless line about the understudies’ performances. Sieber goes into the show after a short week of rehearsal and he sings his grand ballad, “Song on the Sand” with Ryan Cantwell, a great accordionist, accompanying him. When the show finally closes, the producers want Fierstein and him to do a two and one half year tour, but Fierstein is busy with his new shows. The producers called him again and said they had set up the tour with George Hamilton. He couldn’t see Hamilton as Alban but no, they wanted him to do Alban and Hamilton to do Georges. He believes he is the only actor to have played both lovers in the musical! His show stopping finish was “I Am What I Am” which brought a full house standing ovation.
Creeping back on stage, his encore was a song that his mother taught him as a child. He sang the beautiful, if rarely done, verse leading to a great finish of “Life Is Just A Bowl of Cherries.”
Sieber is going into “Matilda” in March but you have a second chance to see this spectacular show at 54 Below on Tuesday, February 11 at 7 PM.