By Melissa Griegel . . .

Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera) looked stunning as she joyfully opened her September 8th show at Feinstein’s/54 Below, with the song “Home”. A frequent performer at 54 Below, she said it feels like home being back on that stage. “I’m looking at ACTUAL human faces!” she said gleefully, “This is my first live performance since all of this began. I am wearing it all—the highest high heels I have, the jewelry, all of it!”

She said her set list is comprised of “songs that have been playing around in my heart” plus lots of favorites from her career résumé. Boggess originated the role of Ariel on Broadway and sang “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” from the The Little Mermaid. This was followed by a very unique version of “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera. Having played Christine Daaé multiple times, she did “Think of Me” four ways: first in a Las Vegas lounge style in a humorous tribute to her first time in the show in Las Vegas, second in Japanese to recognize that the show has been performed worldwide, third in French where she was supposed to perform until the theater went up in flames and finally in English.

Boggess spent much of the pandemic teaching Master Classes on Zoom. Many of her students wanted to learn how to portray the ingénue, a character type that Boggess is very familiar with. The two songs that she chose to represent this are songs that have a different meaning to her now after living through the pandemic: “Will He Like Me?” from She Loves Me and “My White Knight” from The Music Man.

One thing Boggess learned from the pandemic was how important empathy is. “Empathy is a thing that we have to cultivate,” she said before thanking the audience for being socially responsible and getting vaccinated. “Namaste! The vaccine in me recognizes the vaccine in you!”

She thanked pianist and music director Joseph Thalken for doing an arrangement of “If’n I Was God” from the 1937 film Tom Sawyer. In the theme of being more empathic and accepting of people, Boggess read the poem “Trees” by Ram Dass whose message is to appreciate the way people are and be less judgmental. Dass reminds us that when a person looks at a tree, they appreciate and allow the tree to be the way it is, be it bent, straight, evergreens, or the like. But when we look at people who are different, we judge. Dass tells us we should appreciate people just the way they are.

When she wasn’t teaching Master Classes during the long furlough from live performances, Boggess did a lot of ice skating and hiking. She returned home to Colorado to conquer as many of the 14,000 foot and higher mountains as she could. She put one foot in front of the other and summited five of these “14 footers” along with dad and her sister, including the highest one: Mount Elbert. This led beautifully into a belting rendition of “The Sound of Music” and “I Could Have Danced All Night”. She implored the audience to sing along with her to the latter, and they happily complied.

Boggess lovingly read love letters her grandparents wrote to each other when he was away at war. Her renditions of “The Nearness of You” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” were heartfelt. The most poignant moment of the show came when she sang a medley of Secret Garden songs in honor of the late Rebecca Luker. Rebecca originated the role of Lily Craven in that show, and was a frequent performer at Feinstein’s prior to succumbing to ALS in December of 2020. “That’s how I met (pianist) Joseph. I performed with him at an awareness benefit for ALS. I need to acknowledge Rebecca and her spirit. She was a fierce, brave, bad-ass woman.”

The soprano, who hits all the high notes seemingly with ease, ended the show with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and Stephen Sondheim’s “No One is Alone”. Boggess filled the evening with love, humor, and beautiful music. She left imploring us to embrace the world with empathy and kindness, and to remember: “You are enough. You are always enough.”

There are several more opportunities to see Sierra Boggess. She will be performing at Feinstein’s/54 Below on September 9, 10, and 11.

Photos by Melissa Griegel Photography