Photo Courtesy of Seth Sikes
Seth Sikes speaks with Tommy Vance
About His New Show
Seth Sikes Still Singing Judy Garland
So, I hear you’re just getting back from Rhode Island. What you were doing out there?
Oh, yes. I am the associate director of a musical called The Band’s Visit, which closed on Broadway in April but launched its national tour in Providence, and also I was in DC for this opening there. We have a really excellent new cast for the road. So yeah, I spent the last six weeks or so remounting that.
Ah. That’s very exciting. When do you find a time to rehearse for your show?
Well, that’s a good question. I came back in sort of a panic, thinking “Ah! I have so much work to do for my concert.“ I should work on that I guess.
Is this a show that you mounted before or is it its first time on it’s legs?
Yes, well luckily, it’s going to be a sort of greatest hits. All the big songs – it’s really a return to the very first couple of shows I did which were really an autobiographical kind of show I did about growing up in Texas singing Judy Garland songs. In that show, that first show, I had all the big hits, you know, from her Carnegie Hall show, and things like that. So yes, I am returning to material I’ve done before and returning largely to performing those songs.
You’re clearly a big Judy Garland fan. What was the main impetus for this show?
Well, two things. First of all, the actual title of the show was going to be “the songs that got away“. That was a show I did, we changed the title to “Seth Sikes is still singing Judy Garland“, but I am still doing some elements of the “songs that got away“ and the idea there is that when Judy died she was only 47 years old.
Can you believe that? And to think of all the things she accomplished in those 47 years. All the songs she sang and all the songs she would have sung if she had lived a normal life span. You know, she died in 1969, so she never got to hear a lot of incredible songs that were even just written in the next year. All those songs from Follies; “Broadway Baby“, “I’m Still Here“. Songs that she would have been so great on.
And so you’re incorporating songs that you would have liked to have heard her sing?
Yes. Yes. That’s a small bit of the show, but there is a section that deals with imagining what she would have sounded like on the songs she never got to sing had she lived longer.
What a great tribute to her life and legacy, in a year when we’re celebrating world pride in New York and her connection to the gay civil rights movement.
Yeah. I wish I had been in town to do it actually during the pride celebration, but unfortunately I was working on the tour. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m still celebrating. I think we all are.
Do you have a favorite Judy song that you perform?
My favorite song of hers to perform is called “When the Sun Comes Out”.
Why is that?
It’s, first of all, Judy was never better than when she sang Harold Arlen songs. He wrote “The Man That Got Away,” and the songs for “A Star is Born.,” But the song “When the Sun Comes Up“ is a lesser known Harold Arlen song. It is so quintessentially Judy and it is so sad and triumphant at the same time. I just think it’s the most fun thing to do.
Where do you think your love for Judy came from?
It started when I was about six or seven years old. I was a little boy growing up in Paris, Texas, a small town, in the country, and my aunt had a VHS of a musical called “Summer Stock”. It was an MGM musical starring Judy and I watched it and was completely obsessed with the movie but also more so with her. I just watched it hundreds of times and I thought it was such an incredible thing. And then, when I got older and moved to New York, I had more access to these tapes, these old movies. I went down the wormhole one by one and then of course someone introduced me to Judy‘s concert at Carnegie Hall when I moved to New York, when I heard that…
An amazing album, one of my favorites.
I think it’s a great night in show business.
And then from there I just spooned it up.
And you also have done some shows covering Liza Minnelli and Bernadette peters. Is this right?
Yes, that’s right. I did not intend to become the gay boy that sings all the female songs, and in fact I am going to try to move away from that, when I do another show later this year or next year. One of the reasons I did the Liza show, is that, similar to Judy, my aunt also had a VHS tape of Liza performing at radio city music Hall, and down the rabbit hole I went. I watched that obsessively too. And one day when I was about 10 or 11, when I realize the two people were mother and daughter, I nearly died.
Mind blown! And when I first moved to New York, my first job was selling programs at Gypsy, starring Bernadette Peters – and I have some fun stories to tell about that – and I loved her singing her Sondheim show – and it seemed like the natural next thing to do. And I’m going to try very hard to not let myself do a Barbra Streisand show next.
Not a part of your “breaking away from gay icons” strategy?
Not. It’s a tricky thing. I would both like to break away from that stereotype, but also I know that people, like the gimmick of “Seth Sings Liza“ “Seth Songs Judy“ “Seth Sings Streisand.” People actually do respond to that, so it’s a tough decision.
I must say, you’re very thrilling to watch. I’ve also been watching some of your YouTube clips.
And I can imagine for your fans, hearing the excitement of your voice, in some of their favorite songs would be a really great pull to your shows.
Well thank you. It’s, you know, it’s… I get embarrassed about all that a little bit when people watch the videos because it’s so… It’s so… The arrangements are So big and so loud and that’s the way the songs were made, it has to be like that, but you know, there are quieter and more intimate moments in the show and I always apologize to the audience for all the belting that’ll be coming their way.
I’m sure the drinks help.
Well, Seth, I have to say it’s been so much fun talking with you. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for future performances.