Out actor Christopher Sieber, currently starring as Albin/Zaza in the national tour of La Cage aux Folles at the Bank of America Theatre, doesn't mind being known as someone who can step in at the last minute. It's something Sieber has done numerous times throughout his career.
"I guess I'm the go-to guy when they need someone quick," Sieber said during a telephone interview from Boston. Though Sieber has won plenty of acclaim for originating roles in musicals like Triumph of Love, Shrek The Musical and The Kid (based upon the 1999 Dan Savage book), he doesn't mind being a replacement.
For instance, Sieber was asked to step in for actor Mark Kudish on short notice in the 2002 Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. And when actor Douglas Sills (currently starring as Gomez in the tour of The Addams Family) dropped out of the musical Spamalot, Sieber replaced him as Sir Galahad among many other roles with limited rehearsal in New York before the show moved to Chicago in 2004 for its out-of-town tryout.
"I'm glad I'm the guy they go to," Sieber said. "I like that reputation."
Sieber's most recent replacement triumph came this past March when Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) withdrew from the role of Georges in the 2010 Tony Award-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles. Seemingly out of the blue, Sieber was courted by the show's book writer, Harvey Fierstein (who was then starring in the production in as Albin/Zaza), to come to the rescue.
Sieber was supposed to attend a Sunday matinee of the musical Chicago, since he was slated to go back into the role of Billy Flynn. But when Sieber went to the box office, they instead directed him to see La Cage aux Folles and told him to meet with Fierstein after the show.
Since Sieber is a long-time friend of Fierstein, he thought it was just a nice gesture. Instead, Feinstein asked him point blank whether or not he was going to play Georgeseven though it was the first time Sieber had ever heard of the offer. Of course Sieber said yes.
"That was a Sunday. The deal came in, we negotiated it Monday, we closed it Tuesday, by that Thursday I was in rehearsal and the following Friday I was in the showso seven days," Sieber said, relishing the chance to finally appear alongside Fierstein in a Broadway show and to see the performance choices of a writer playing a character he helped to create.
Both Fierstein and Sieber were offered their same La Cage roles for the tour. However, Fierstein was unavailable since he was working on the script for Newsies The Musical (headed to Broadway this spring) and collaborating with Cyndi Lauper on a musical version of the film Kinky Boots.
After Hollywood star George Hamilton agreed to appear as Georges, the tour's producers turned to Sieber to switch roles and play Albin. So instead of just donning a sparkly tuxedo, Sieber now gets to go all out in full drag for Jerry Herman's famous songs like "A Little More Mascara," "The Best of Times" and "I Am What I Am."
"It's quite the role," Sieber said. "It's physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting… but it's also a lot of fun."
Now Sieber will be the first to say that he isn't a beauty and more of a "handsome" woman in drag. But Sieber jokes how he was "devastated" when his father saw him in his hometown of Minneapolis and said, "Chris, I hate to say this, but you're not pretty."
Although much of La Cage aux Folles is farcical and splashy show biz, the musical also makes a strong case for gay relationships and parenting. When the tour launched this past October from Des Moines, Iowa, many people saw the symbolic nature opening in one of a handful of states where same-sex marriage is legal.
For Sieber, the message within La Cage aux Folles is near to his heartparticularly since he just married his longtime partner, Kevin Burows, in New York this past Thanksgiving.
"For the conservative people who do see the show, sometimes it takes the entire first act to get them, and then by Act II we've got 'em," Sieber said. "It's kind of got a covert message where you leave the theater humming the songs and there's a message there… It doesn't matter who you love, it's that you love."
La Cage aux Folles continues through Jan. 1 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Performances are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, 23 and 28; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22, 26, 27, 29, 30; 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 31 and 2 p.m. Dec. 24 and Jan. 1. Tickets are $32-$100. Call 800-775-2000 or visit www.broadwayinchicago.com .
New York transfers
Lisa D'Amour's much-lauded 2010 drama Detroit was initially slated for Broadway following its world premiere run at Steppenwolf Theatre. But news broke earlier this month that Detroit instead will open off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in the fall of 2012.
A fall 2012 off-Broadway berth is also slated for the much-acclaimed drama A Twist of Water by playwright Caitlin Montanye Parris. The Chicago-set show, first produced by Route 66 Theatre, focuses on issues like gay adoption and the lack of hospital visitation rights by same-sex partners. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the show's original cast will hopefully reprise their roles at the non-profit New York company 59E59.