After an incredible year, which included bringing musical sensations Jeremy Jordan and Audra McDonald to London, Fourth Wall Live have brought 2022 to a close with none other than Sierra Boggess – in a concert called Christmas at Cadogan Hall.
Boggess is the most renowned actress to play Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera in the 21st century, and the second most notable of all time (after Sarah Brightman, of course). She has played Christine several times and even originated the role in the controversial sequel, Love Never Dies. Her other notable credits include the female leads in the original casts of The Little Mermaid and School of Rock.
Redheaded, cutesy, and a little bit messy, it is no surprise that Boggess was chosen to play Ariel in the original production. Christmas at Cadogan Hall was as much a comedy as it was a concert. Musical concerts can be a little drab but Boggess, like McDonald, offered carefully considered context and comedy (of the classy kind). She even joked that her two-show visit to London, in which she opened and closed in the same day, was the shortest run ever.
The staging was much simpler than McDonald’s. The set merely consisted of seven large lights placed behind the trio onstage. But the gorgeous Cadogan Hall hardly needs splendour. The Christmas tree up top set the mood for the festive concert.
Boggess was accompanied by her sister, Summer Boggess-Hertz, and Summer’s husband, Brian Hertz. The latter was the show’s musical director. As is often the case, invited guests were sat together, but I was only sat next to Boggess’ parents! Next to her were Boggess’ Love Never Dies co-stars, Joseph Millson and Liz Robertson.
Boggess’ mother told my friend, Charlotte (who works in theatre), and I that they have another daughter, but she’s a teacher and was unable to get time off. How adorable that Boggess’ parents flew all the way over to the UK to see her perform? It’s 17 years since she had her professional debut (the US tour of Les Misèrables, in which she was a member of the ensemble and understudy Cossette) and 16 years since her breakthrough in The Little Mermaid. But still, her parents still want to see every single moment of her success.
I am rambling now; this is the Boggess effect – see, after her first song, she kept talking and talking, eventually promising us, “I will sing again”. She then began talking about one of Barbra Streisand‘s iconic Christmas albums and even offered us an hilarious, impeccable impression, before covering Streisand’s version of the ‘Jingle Bells’, with perfect diction and pronunciation, right down to pronouncing “sleigh” like “slay” (for the gays). Boggess revealed that she always thought the character “Fanny Bright” in the song was “Fanny Brice”, a nod to Streisand’s career-defining role in the original cast of Funny Girl.
Boggess, of course, sang a song from The Phantom of the Opera. She told us that she has been cast in Phantom four times: Las Vegas, Broadway, Tokyo, and she was supposed to play the role in Paris, but the theatre burnt down. “I had tickets,” lamented an audience member in the front row, before another person down front revealed they, too, had tickets. “You had tickets too? Get it all out”, Boggess joked.
Boggess referred to this rendition of ‘Think of Me’ as “Think of Me Four Ways“, with the song broken into four parts, each a tribute to the places she played Christine. She joked, “I’ll do some of it in French to get you your tickets.” She poked fun at Phantom playing in Vegas, telling us she was going to sing it in the way that people might have expected to hear it in Vegas – only to start singing with a Britney Spears impersonation! She then became more classical, singing in Japanese, French, and, eventually, the original English. It is one of the most impressive vocal performances I have ever seen.
After this, she offered us a beautiful medley, in which she played tribute to three characters from three different musicals: two of them children, the other Lily from The Secret Garden. She ended the medley with the latter, envisioning Lily welcoming the troubled children into her garden. It was poetic.
Her cover of ‘Christmas Lullaby’ from the musical/song cycle Songs for a New World was beautiful. McDonald, too, had covered a song from this musical – the sassy ‘Stars and the Moon’.
Her final song of the first act was the title song from Love Never Dies. She admitted that, in Phantom, audiences root for the Phantom, even though he’s a murderer that abducts Christine. She then commented on the sequel and seemingly almost revealed a spoiler: “Begging her not to,” she said, before pausing and rewording her sentence: “Just begging her!”
Whilst I disagree with her that Love Never Dies is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest scores, and I find the title song is a little blasé for a musical’s supposed signature song, her delivery cannot be criticised; you can feel every single word she sings.
We then had an interval – and Boggess even made sure to call it such (not an intermission).
After the interval, she sang the wonderful ‘Dance All Night’ from My Fair Lady, which McDonald had also sang at her concert. Charlotte and I caught the musical at the London Coliseum back in summer, and whilst we had our issues with the musical, we both adore the song.
Boggess’ messy humour continued into the second act. At one point, she referred to dead people in the Thames, before joking that this is a Halloween show.
Boggess delivered a charming rendition of ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins – Charlotte’s favourite song from the musical. This number really let Brian and Summer shine. Touchingly, sat next to Boggess’ parents were Joseph Millson, the first actor to play George Banks in the current West End revival, and Liz Robertson, who is currently playing Miss Andrew and Miss Smythe. Sadly, she and Petula Clark CBE were off when I went to see the show.
The concert than became especially personal, with Boggess reading letters that her grandmother sent to her grandfather during the Second World War. At first, she read them to silence, before music accompanied her, and she eventually broke out into song. One of the letters was pretty saucy, with Boggess’ grandmother telling her husband that she had nothing on! Boggess’ mother appeared quite touched during this section of the concert, and she later told me that the grandparents in question were, indeed, her parents.
Boggess kept the Phantom fans happy with another song from the haunting musical.
Before ending the concert, she admitted, “I would have faked you out and done the whole fake exit thing but these [heels] are too high!”
Her final two songs were ‘No One is Alone’ from Into the Woods and ‘Silent Night’. For the latter, she encouraged the audience to join it; the song was now sang how it was supposed to: by a choir. It was such a warm, festive end to a Christmas concert. We then walked outside to snow. We couldn’t believe it. How poetic?