by Ron Fassler
Sierra Boggess, a red haired dynamo of a singing sensation, brought her new cabaret show to Feinstein’s/54 Below last night. Before she sang a note, her ovation was an uncommon one at this nightclub. Filled as it was with so much love and adoration, I wondered if the place hadn’t been packed solely with friends and family. As it turned out, it was a cadre of devoted fans, who have been following Boggess’s rise on the Broadway stage since she created the role of Ariel in the 2008 production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and before that, to when she first gave what is now one of her many appearances as Christine during the eternally long-running The Phantom of the Opera. Possessed with a truly remarkable singing voice, robust and strong, and with a gorgeous coloratura that she utilizes with precision and ease, Boggess is a musical theatre performer in total command of her instrument. And as she demonstrated in her show last night, equally adept at holding an audience in the palm of her hand.
Telling us that she crafted this show to offset the anxiety of our current political climate, Boggess’s spirituality was extra-present in order to guide us through a musical journey of songs that mean a great deal to her, and that might lend hope to the crisis of uncertainty in these dangerous and violent times. Concluding her two-night run on Election Night should make for an interesting evening. Who knows? She might broadcast some results as they come in.
The repertoire she chose to sing Sunday (drawn primarily from her autobiography), included personal favorites of uplift and joy and fan favorites (we were treated to no less than three of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom songs). But it was through her storytelling, which she deftly weaved into the music seamlessly throughout the evening, that gave her singing a glow of specificity that was deeply moving. Revealing letters written between her grandparents while they were physically forced apart during World War II, brought a tenderness to her renditions of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and You’ll Never Know,” by Harry Warren and Mack Garden, that were hauntingly beautiful.
At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, the stories she told about Lord Webber inviting her to his “castle home,” as she called it, to perform there for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, were hilarious. Just like that–one phone call–and she was having supper with the Queen (and yes, singing for it). Superbly threading the story, while singing verses of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’s “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” was in her inspired telling, a theatrical tour de force. The audience ate it up like a delicious bowl of ice cream.
Boggess shared the stage with her superb musical director and pianist Brian Hertz, whose accompaniment on “Part of Your World” was as exquisite as Boggess’s singing. And on cello, was Summer Boggess, who is not only gainfully employed at the moment in the orchestra for Mean Girls at the August Wilson Theatre, but is already the veteran of seven other Broadway musicals. The sound created while the sisters shared a simple and pitch-perfect arrangement of “You’ll Never Know,” was simply lovely.
Sierra Boggess at Feinstein’s/54 Below
254 West 54 Street (Cellar) New York City
November 4 and November 6