Christopher Sieber returns to San Diego to star in ‘La Cage aux Folles;’ says there is ‘nothing like’ performing for an audience
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Reporter
Actor Christopher Sieber is back in town, for a welcome return. Though he will hardly be remembered as Angel Rick – “the English guy with the bomber” in the “cool and weird” 1995 La Jolla Playhouse “Faust” production, Sieber said – he is perhaps best known as the widower Kevin Burke in the television series “Two of a Kind,” as well as the stuffy Lord Farquaad in “Shrek the Musical.”
On this visit however, Sieber plays dancing drag queen Albin, a.k.a. ZaZa, opposite George Hamilton’s nightclub manager, Georges, in the Broadway tour of the musical “La Cage aux Folles.” The Broadway San Diego production plays Tuesday, Aug. 7 through Aug. 12 at the Civic Theatre.
In the Tony Award-winning musical, Albin and Georges are longtime lovers who raised Georges’s son Jean-Michel, the product of a heterosexual indiscretion 20 years previously. Jean-Michel becomes engaged and announces to Albin and Georges that he is bringing his beloved and her straight-laced parents over for dinner. Chaos ensues. Albin’s impersonation of frumpy housewife goes just so far.
Sieber is a high-heels veteran, who earned his stripes as Edna in “Hairspray.” He laughed over the memory, doing “Hairspray” at the Cape Playhouse in Massachusetts.
“It was so much fun; total summer stock: eight hours of rehearsal and eight of tech. I call it throwing darts, hoping something will stick,” he said. Subsequently, he played Edna at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, wearing three-and-a-half inch spike heels, in which he had to tap dance.
“For ‘La Cage’ they made my shoes specifically for me, so I asked for a big, wide heel. They are very stable,” he said, calling the show “non-stop,” partially because he does not get an intermission.
“When I’m not on stage, I’m back stage, changing clothes, shoes, wigs, makeup and eyelashes. It’s the best weight loss program I’ve ever been on.”
Joking aside, the intensive production has other side affects, Sieber said, though he tackles the challenge with ease.
“You have to be very careful, otherwise it takes its toll on your voice,” he said. “It takes so much to get through the power number, ‘I Am What I Am.’ You need the voice and you need the acting to make it fly.”
Sieber was raised in Minnesota in a farming town with a population of 642. When he was 17, he announced his intention to leave. “My parents didn’t want me to go because Minnesota people don’t leave. Imagine me, a kid of 18, getting on a plane … and moving myself – and I paid for everything – to New York City,” he said.
Saying he did not exactly know what he was doing during that 1988 move, Sieber said he was motivated by his dream of performing. “I wanted to do it, acting anyway, or just changing my life, and I did. I had a teacher who told me, ‘Yes, be afraid, but never let fear stop you,’” he said.
Sieber studied musical comedy and acting at New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy and made his Broadway debut as Agis in the musical “Triumph of Love” at age 25. He then specialized in firm-jawed roles like Trevor Graydon in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” Rapunzel’s Prince in “Into the Woods” and Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast.”
In fact, it was in the company of “Beauty and the Beast” that Sieber met his longtime partner, Kevin Burrows. Sieber was playing Gaston and Burrows was the Fork. Because each had a rule not to date in the company, they were fast friends for a long time. When Burrows quit the show, the two began dating, and married Thanksgiving Day, 2011.
Both sets of parents attended the wedding. At the reception, Sieber, now 42, took his dad aside and said, “You know, getting old sucks. Everything hurts.”
His father’s response? “Just wait till you’re 68.”
“I just want to wake up and feel like I’m 9 years old again,” Sieber said, “but what a blessing. I’m pretty well established now, and people know who I am and what I can do. The challenge is proving myself even more, every single time. I will never, and I have never, just sat back and gone through it.”
For “La Cage,” Sieber said he gives “135 percent,” per usual, but is aware of what that means for him exactly.
“Being in front of an audience, there is nothing like it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said. “If someone asked, ‘Would you stop doing this for a million dollars?’ the answer would be, ‘No, not for a billion dollars.’”
See Sieber as Albin through Aug. 12 at the Civic Theatre, 1200 Third St. (Third and B streets), Downtown. Show times are 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday. For tickets visit broadwaysd.com or call 619-570-1100.