By Brian Scott Lipton
If you simply heard the voice of Sierra Boggess, one of the purest, most crystalline sopranos to ever grace the stage, you might imagine it was attached to a grande dame of opera, all false mannerisms, big bosoms, and fluttery hands. In reality, though, Boggess is a stunningly beautiful yet down-to-earth 35-year-old woman from Colorado with a gee-whiz manner, delicious sense of humor, and deep sense of spirituality. (Oh yeah, and great shoes!)
Not surprisingly, it’s her authentic personality that makes her newest show at Feinstein’s/54 Below so enchanting — although that spectacular voice alone is indeed worth the price of admission. Joined by musical director Brian Hertz and a six-piece “orchestra” that also features her sister, the brilliant cellist Summer Boggess, this Broadway babe is smart enough to give the crowds what they want (and need for these troubled times).
Most famous for her portrayal of Christine Daae in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” Boggess brings the crowd to its feet with a glorious, soaring rendition of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” She delights us by performing pieces of that show’s sugary ballad “Think of Me” in a pop Las Vegas-style, in Japanese, and in French. (She was supposed to star in an all French-version of the show in Paris last year, but the theater burnt down during rehearsals). And her pitch-perfect take on another quasi-operatic Webber tune, “Love Never Dies” (the title song of the prequel to “Phantom”), is positively thrilling.
Having played the spunky yet sweet Ariel in Broadway’s “The Little Mermaid,” she delivers the definitive rendition of that show’s best-known song, “Part of That World,” as well as a beguiling version of “Beyond My Wildest Dreams,” superbly capturing the character’s innocence and guilelessness. Boggess also gives her all to the passionate “A Little Bit Less Than,” her solo shot from the short-lived musical “It Shoulda Been You.”
While the show’s selections are not exclusively from the Great White Way, those numbers land the strongest. Her opening gambit is a precise yet joyous version of “The Lusty Month of May” (making a strong case for reviving “Camelot” and casting her as Guinevere); she brings the audience to near-tears by reading from her grandmother’s letters from World War II, followed by part of “One Kiss” (from “The New Moon”); she weaves a hilarious tale about performing for Queen Elizabeth II at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s English mansion around a surprisingly robust “If They Could See Me Now” (from “Sweet Charity”), and she closes the evening with an absolutely gorgeous “Come to My Garden” (from “The Secret Garden”) that ends the show on just the right note.
Garden, nightclub, Broadway stage. I’d follow Sierra Boggess anywhere.
Sierra Boggess continues at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street), September 6-9. Visit www.54below.com for tickets.