Christopher Sieber, Broadway’s gay go-to leading man, brings ‘La Cage’ to Dallas
Christopher Sieber is something of a rarity these days: Like Michael Cerveris and Raul Esparza, he’s an actor who makes his living on the Broadway stage. You might even call him a gay Sutton Foster. Certainly he doesn’t mind.
“Ha! I’m gonna text her that right now — ‘Sutton, I’m the gay you.’ That’s sweet. I think Norbert Leo Butz is another one — people actually want to come see us because we’ve been around so long.”
The analogy is fully warranted. Despite stints as a regular on two short-lived sitcoms — Two of a Kind with the Olsen Twins and the gay domestic comedy It’s All Relative (“It was a good show, we just got killed by American Idol,” he says) — Sieber’s bread-and-butter has been the stage. From Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston to the sexy Wolf in Sondheim’s Into the Woods to a gay Sir Galahad in Spamalot (the first of two Tony Award nominations), he’s a marquee name who makes musical theater his own.
“I’ve done it all,” Sieber agrees. “I’ve been lucky enough to help create characters in, like, 11 shows. The things that have fallen in my lap have been theatrical.”
And no show fell in his lap quite so dramatically as the revival (and now national tour) of La Cage aux Folles, opening this week at the Fair Park Music Hall.
Sieber had wrapped his Tony-nominated role as dwarfish Lord Farquaad in Shrek: The Musical (“I joke it was the first time I ever had to be on my knees after I got a job,” Sieber jokes) and was about to enter Chicago again as Billy Flynn. While he was standing in line about to see a Broadway show, someone tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re going to see La Cage,” they told him.
The musical was enjoying a revival on Broadway, and Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the script, had taken over the role of Albin, the flamboyant drag queen married to stable impresario Georges.
“I had never seen La Cage, though Harvey and I have been friends for 20 years,” he says. “I went backstage to see Harvey and offer my congratulations [after the performance]. Then Harvey” — and here, Sieber affects the best Fierstein impersonation you’ve ever heard — “says, ‘Close the door… So, are you gonna do the show??’”
Jeffrey Tambor, who had just begun playing Georges, had to drop out. The producers were desperate for someone to take over the role.
“I said, ‘Yes of course I’ll do it.’ Seven days later, I am in the show, name above the title opposite Harvey on Broadway. Finally I thought, ‘What just happened?’ I had no time to get freaked out.”
Sieber spent 10 weeks with the show, So when he was approached about doing the national tour, Sieber jumped at the idea — especially the chance to co-star on the road with Harvey again.
Only Fierstein couldn’t do the tour. So the producers made a suggestion: Would Seiber like to take over the role of Albin?
“I had no idea I would ever play that part,” he says. “I don’t know why they thought of me. But I got to see [Harvey] do Albin, and when you write it and you perform it, you know this is what he meant.” Legendarily tan George Hamilton took over Georges. That alone has been a surreal experience.
“It was really tough at first — it still is — to see Georges from the position of Albin,” he says. “I worked with Harvey on that role … and now I know everything about Albin! I adore [Hamilton] — who wouldn’t? He’s so goddamned charming — but playing opposite yourself is like watching someone driving your new Cadillac down a gravel road. You keep wanting to yell ‘Slow down! Be careful!’”
Being the only actor ever to play the two leading roles in major Broadway productions of La Cage isn’t lost on Sieber … nor are the political implications of the show’s message itself.
“When La Cage opened in the ‘80s, gay stuff like this was still pretty edgy. Now, it’s almost passé,” he says. “But gay marriage was hard to imagine back then — now it’s real!”
Sieber, who legally wed his husband last Thanksgiving in their New York living room following legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011, gets animated talking about it.
“I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna be a political football anymore,” he says. “Those yahoos keep spouting off about gay marriage. Santorum and all that weird stuff he keeps saying? Why is he so obsessed with gay sex? One doth protest too much I think. I am a human, I am a man same as you and for you to call me evil? You can go fuck yourself. I am married now to my husband and we just want to love each other and spend our lives together. We’ve been together a long time,but once you have found him, never let him go.”
Ya know, that sounds like a song from another show Sieber might want to tackle.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2012.