Sierra Boggess may be the closest thing we have to a real-life Disney princess: she’s classically beautiful, sings with a glorious, crystalline, versatile musical theatre soprano, and has the wide-eyed wonderment and optimism of a young mermaid discovering the world above the sea. She’s almost certainly the type of person who literally whistles while she works.
The American musical theatre star seems to come to us from an alternate universe, where life’s toughest trials can be tackled with a few sayings and the help of woodland creatures (or even just the trees themselves).
It’s rather appropriate, then, that Boggess made her Broadway debut playing a Disney princess, as Ariel in The Little Mermaid. She’s also well known for playing the ingenue Christine Daae in several iterations of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera in the US and London, including the premiere of its sequel, Love Never Dies.
But Boggess has managed to gain a significant following all around the world, thanks to cast recordings and her indefatigable social media presence, which teaches fans everywhere her life’s philosophies, including her battle cry: “you are enough, you are so enough, it’s unbelievable how enough you are”.
Boggess brought that infectious, relentless optimism to the stage for her Australian premiere performance — a solo concert at Sydney’s State Theatre on Saturday night.
Her setlist on this tour is made up of several songs from her most famous roles, alongside other favourites which she associates with her inspirations and life lessons.
It’s also a concert which shows her versatility as a performer and singer — she’s able to channel the plucky soprano of Julie Andrews in I Have Confidence in one moment and reveal a quality light Broadway belt for I Don’t Care. And then there’s her note-perfect Britney Spears impersonation.
She performs a physically cartoon-esque, but deeply felt rendition of the schmaltzy but genuinely beautiful Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, and finds the dramatic depths of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from Phantom of the Opera.
But she’s steering clear of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables on this tour, because the song ends with the line “now life has killed the dream I dreamed.” She doesn’t want to send that message out to the audience, and at Saturday’s concert even wore a glamorous crisp, white gown to ensure her audience received nothing but lightness.
A little more darkness might’ve given the concert a little more depth and variety, but it could never be said that Boggess doesn’t give her audience plenty of joy.
Her musical director Brian Hertz leads a small, very tight orchestra, featuring Boggess’s sister, cellist Summer Boggess. Hertz’s arrangements are wonderful — giving all the grandeur and sophistication of a Broadway orchestra with limited musicians. One particular highlight is a stripped back medley of You’ll Never Know and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, inspired by her grandparents’ romance. Boggess’s voice is often at its most beautiful when she’s singing something simple and very intimate.
Hertz’s arrangements also allow Boggess to tell stories from her own life through the songs, including one particularly memorable rendition of If My Friends Could See Me Now, all about an unusual experience at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mansion and an extraordinarily intimate performance for Queen Elizabeth.
Given Boggess’s authentic enthusiasm for just about everything — including her first ever trip to Australia — it’s impossible to imagine exactly how she might’ve behaved in the presence of royalty. But it’s not difficult to imagine Her Majesty cracking a smile at Boggess’s prodigious talents and endearing lightness.