Sierra Boggess on Disappointments, Awakenings, and Just Goin' With the Flow at 54 Below
After an unpredictable year, the Colorado-girl-turned-Broadway/West End-star has learned that show business makes promises to no one.
Even with her long list of recent successes on Broadway (The Little Mermaid, Master Class, The Phantom of the Opera) and the West End (Love Never Dies, Les Misérables), Sierra Boggess is not immune from the letdowns of show business. After a public financial scandal shut down the production of Rebecca, which would have been her next Broadway undertaking, Sierra was cast in the Harold Prince revue Prince of Broadway, which has also been indefinitely postponed.
Yet rather than wallowing, Boggess is taking advantage of her time off from the typical eight-show-a-week schedule and sharing the lessons she has learned from her rollercoaster year in two performances of her concert, Awakening, at 54 Below on August 19 and 26. Following a preview performance where she sang beautiful renditions of "Quando men vo" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," what began as an "interview" quickly turned into a casual chat about how to "be like water" and flow with the challenges life throws your way. A Colorado native, Boggess also shared her favorite nature spots to visit in the relatively nature-barren city as well as her go-to pick-me-up song for those days when even her seemingly indefatigable optimism is wearing thin.
It's a cool place to be, [and] I wanted to be a part of it. And I felt like this is the time in my life where I really have something to say, and this is the perfect venue to do it.
What is it you feel like you have to say?
I'm calling my show Awakening because I feel like as humans we're all having an awakening right now. Life is changing, this world is changing, so much is going on, and I feel like I've been awakened to the inspiration all around me. Not just from doing an eight-show-a-week Broadway or West End routine. Suddenly when you're not doing your eight shows a week, there are so many other things that you're like, "Oh my gosh, I can draw inspiration from this and this and this" as opposed to just what I know, which is to draw inspiration from my characters. That's where I'm at, and I want to talk about it.
Where do you get most of your inspiration from these days?
Well, I've been discovering a lot about nature. [It's] great, if you are ever anxious or feeling off, [to] just go and reconnect with nature. [It's] so important for us, especially as New Yorkers because there's not a lot of [it] around us. If you connect with nature, you're just reminded that we're one. It's not separate, and it's not competition — it's just us existing.
That's such a great attitude to have, especially in the competitive world of show business.
Yeah! And we get to make this world however we want it. That's what it is. We get to choose. So I can choose if I want it to be competitive or just see everybody as awesome beings on this earth together, and that's how I want to be.
Do you have a favorite nature spot in New York?
Well, obviously, Central Park. You can go there a gajillion times and not have even been to the same place twice. But we have all the rivers around us too, and I love going to the Hudson. Even though that water's dirty and I wouldn't want to touch it (laughs), I like being around bodies of water — just the flow of the river and just reminding yourself to be like water and flow. You know, water's never like "Ugh, God!" It's always like, "I'm good, I'm flowin'." (Laughs) That's how I want to be.
It's so rare to find someone in New York with that kind of attitude.
Well, you're from Colorado…
Yeah, I'm from Colorado! I've gotta be with the nature. (laughs)
Do people ever give you confused looks when you talk about things like this?
Sure, but then they're like "Yeah, that's actually a good idea!"
This past year has been full of potential projects for you that ended up getting sidelined. How have you been able to keep a positive attitude through all the ups and downs?
Well that's what it is. I realized…there's a higher lesson for me to learn. It's not supposed to be, "Just get your next show." There's a pattern developing, so my lesson is just learning how to go with the flow. Be like water, you know? Just flow with what's happening because nobody promised me that this business is going to be what it says it is. No one said, then when you get a show, then it definitely happens. There's no consistency here. There are shows that are opening and closing left and right. You can't count on it. I want to be at peace through all of these things so that I can be like, "All right. That was good. What's the next thing?" That's really where all this is coming from, so actually, it was a huge gift to have such a strange, tumultuous year of "Hey, you're doing this! Just kidding. You're doing thi…no." (Laughs) What can you do?
(Laughs) I guess you have to be like water when things like that happens.
You have to! You've got to flow like water. You can't be like, "Well, I'm mad!" Why? Why are you mad? No one promised you that it was going to be consistent. It would be my fault if I was mad.
How do your song choices fit into this theme?
It's pretty much all Broadway tunes. It's all the songs that mean something to me [and] that got me to where I am. Pretty much everything that inspires me.
I see there's some opera on the bill, as well.
Yeah. I'm not an opera singer, but I trained classically, so I know how to sing opera, and I love getting to also have that side. When I did Master Class on Broadway, that was the time I could actually sing like an opera singer. It's just something that I don't get to do all the time because my chosen field is not opera — my chosen field is Broadway and West End.
Which feels best to you? Singing an aria or belting out a Broadway number?
Both. I can't even describe. I've been really lucky that I get to do both. I just did these concerts in Japan and we basically sang all these different songs that we're known for — there were four of us performing. I was singing opera and I was singing legit soprano, and then I was belting…That was heaven on earth because [I got] to do everything. That's my show, as well. Whatever voice I feel like, I'll be, "And now I'll do this!" (laughs)
When you're feeling stressed or down, do you have a go-to song that lifts you up?
Yes. There's a song by Chris Rice. He has this song called "So Much for My Sad Song." The words are just awesome. It starts out where…you're feeling down and you kind of want to feel down...then you look outside and you realize, "Oh, so much for my sad song." This is an awesome life.