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CD REVIEW: Sierra Boggess – Awakening, Live at 54 Below

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

sierra-boggess-awakening-live-at-54-below-cdStarting with her Broadway debut as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the last six years have seen Sierra Boggess go from unknown to one of the biggest names on Broadway today. It is testament to this that Boggess finds herself joining the hallowed few invited to the famous Studio 54 Below in New York to record an intimate cabaret. It also says a lot for her portrayal of Ariel in the reasonably successful (but hardly blockbusting) Little Mermaid that she has attained such a status following relatively few starring rôles.

That a young lady at the tender age of 31 opens such a concert with “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music, suggests an unbecoming cockiness. However, Boggess soon shows that although she may have confidence, it is far from misplaced and this CD proves that not only is this is one talented young lady but that she is also an extremely charming companion through the seventy-odd minutes of the CD running time.

Interesting and amusing stories are intertwined with the songs to create a tapestry of the performer’s life. A story of an encounter with Barbra Streisand is wrapped up in a rendition of Hello Dolly’s “Before the Parade Passes By” while “I Don’t Care” is a reaction to the inevitable internet criticism of her casting as Ariel. And a real highlight takes the form of an hilarious medley of Lloyd Webber songs in which Boggess performs them in various inappropriate vocal styles (opera singer does “Buenos Aires”, pop singer does “Think of Me” etc).

In many of these Studio 54 recordings, the Broadway artist makes the mistake of straying too far from what made them famous. Strained renditions of pop songs and an avoidance of anything faintly musical theatre is not uncommon. Thankfully Boggess gives the audience exactly what they want – a wide range of songs that always return to musicals and includes a little light opera as well as her big hit – “Part of Your World”. That she delivers this song in the middle of the set so that it sits in the chronology of her story instead of keeping it until the end is a brave move that once again shows the performer’s confidence.

Family members are included in the show with Boggess’s father appearing on guitar and her sister Summer accompanying her on cello. Far from being nepotistic, this simply highlights what a talented family this is – a point cemented when Boggess reads a wartime love letter written by her grandmother to her grandfather that is truly beautiful and touching.

Boggess’s success is well deserved and this CD does nothing but confirm this fact. Unlike the dinglehoppers and snarfblats in Ariel’s grotto, this CD is a real treasure and comes highly recommended.

Available from Broadway Records

Reviewer: Mark Clegg Starting with her Broadway debut as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the last six years have seen Sierra Boggess go from unknown to one of the biggest names on Broadway today. It is testament to this that Boggess finds herself joining the hallowed few invited to the famous Studio 54 Below in New York to record an intimate cabaret. It also says a lot for her portrayal of Ariel in the reasonably successful (but hardly blockbusting) Little Mermaid that she has attained such a status following relatively few starring rôles. That a young lady at the tender…

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