CD Review: Sierra Boggess Awakens at 54 Below
Contributor Scott Redman gives a listen to Awakening, the new live recording by Broadway’s Sierra Boggess.
Sierra Boggess, best known for her portrayal of Ariel in Broadway’s The Little Mermaid, recently performed a cabaret act, Awakening, at 54 Below in New York City. It is now available for purchase on CD and digital download. The show was stirred by the book, Inspiration: Your Ultimate Calling by Dr. Wayne Dyer who Boggess credits as changing her perspective on life. She quotes the book throughout her performance and even encourages the audience to pick up their own copy. At some points the couplets of wisdom outstay their welcome, but Ms. Boggess’ crystal sounding voice makes up for the unwanted jibber jabber.
The night starts off where all bouts of inspiration do, in confidence, with the delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein tune, “I Have Confidence.” Boggess’ set list includes everything from show arias from her favorite operas, Disney tunes and Broadway classics. Boggess graciously extends her stage time to include her father, Mike Boggess, who accompanies her on the guitar playing “Wildflowers.” It soon becomes a family affair with her sister, Summer Boggess, playing the cello on selected numbers.
Highlights of the recording include “The Ultimate Medley with Apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber,” which takes a hilarious spin on pop stars and opera singers miscast in Webber musicals. The romp shows off the range of expression and sense of humor Boggess can deliver when put to the test. Her rendition of “Think of Me” done as an impression of a pop star ala Brittney Spears is pure entertainment.
The clear-toned power of her voice is best showcased in “A Quiet Thing” from Kander & Ebb’s Flora the Red Menace. Her voice immediately places you in the scene alongside the bittersweet realization that some of life’s greatest experiences are the simplest. She uses the song to explain her emotional reaction to meeting her idol, Barbra Streisand, backstage after a concert in Brooklyn. Her rendition of the song is powerful enough to ignite a revival of the musical.
The most honest and touching part of the evening surrounds Boggess’ recollection of her grandparents. She reminisces going through a collection of old letters of correspondence between her grandfather (a World War II veteran) and her grandmother during the 1940s. This section personifies the power of love one can achieve with sacrifice and perseverance. Boggess brings the evening to a climax as she sings “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” I did not attend the live concert but can’t imagine a dry eye in the house after hearing this heartfelt story accompanied by a clenching ode to past times.
The evening twists and turns between effortless singing intertwined with Dr. Phil-like expressions that teeter between summer camp credos and vacation Bible school. It is clear that the show lacked direction and Boggess could have used an objective point of view on how to package the material. A director might also have helped shaped the songs into Ms. Boggess’ own interpretation rather than adding accents and simulated emotion. Boggess has a terrific instrument that is fragile and refined — with creative direction she will undoubtedly reappear as a leading lady of Broadway.
Awakening is available at Amazon.com or for digital download on iTunes.
Take the jump for a video taste of Ms. Boggess singing “Falling in Love with Love.