I don’t think I’ve seen many cabaret shows that are more charming than Chris Sieber’s 54 Below debut “Minnesota Boy Does Well”. As is fitting for a cabaret debut from a Broadway baby like Sieber, this act is all about growing up theatrical, with memories of childhood lip-synching segueing seamlessly into regional shows, then into his Broadway debut (the cult favorite flop Triumph of Love) and beyond.
The act is dishy without being bitchy, insider-y without being insular, rueful without being resentful. Part of his charm comes from his corn-fed good looks and golden voice, but a larger part of it comes from the palpable and infectious joy he has in performing. When he invites the audience to sing along with “Daydream Believer” it is completely unforced, and we are effortlessly drawn into whistling along with Spamalot‘s “The Bright Side of Life” without his even asking.
Sieber has an extended sequence about the injuries he’s suffered on the boards – an occupational hazard he addresses with good humor and witty self-deprecation. He has another, decidedly more positive, extended sequence about the many people he has replaced on Broadway, which climaxes with his playing George opposite Harvey Fierstein’s Albin in La Cage Aux Folles.
Now, Sieber was the first George that has filled the La Cage line “plain old homosexual” with deep sincerity, and therein lies the key to the genius of his performance and his chemistry with Harvey. I have never felt the reality of that couple’s love as I did with them. Sieber’s George loved Albin so much that the audience was reduced to moved silence whenever Sieber expressed that love. His rendition of La Cage‘s “Song on the Sand” in this cabaret act was full of that feeling.
What I didn’t know, though, was that Sieber had played Albin on tour with George Hamilton as his George, and he closes this act with a highly emotional version of “I Am What I Am” that is easily the equal of George Hearn’s towering original or even Harvey’s. If you (like me) didn’t see Sieber sing this on tour, you absolutely can’t miss this – or, really, any of this act. Highly recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.