By Eddie Shapiro
Christopher Sieber is a prince. Well, actually, these days he's a knight (Gallahad, to be precise) in the new Broadway hit musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Spamalot. But after playing the prince in such musical fare as Cinderella, Triumph of Love and Into the Woods, a return trip to the court to turn on his natural charm is almost de rigueur for the handsome, out Sieber. As the blonde and dashing Gallahad, Sieber more than holds his own with comedy heavyweights Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, and Hank Azaria. Although he spent last year in Hollywood as one of the two gay dads in the ABC sitcom It's All Relative, Sieber is happy to be back in New York, and Broadway, in turn, is lucky to have him.
Out: Congratulations on this show!
Christopher Sieber: Yeah, it's pretty damned nifty. I've never experienced anything like it before.
Tell me about it.
Basically, Eric Idle took Monty Python and the Holy Grail and ran with it. Anyone who knows the movie will be happy that the favorites are there. The Killer Rabbit, the Black Knight. But they've also added musical numbers, which are absolutely hilarious. It's just silly, silly humor and people are loving it. I've never experienced anything like this. People are going nuts. I mean, I've heard of the roar of the crowd, but I never heard the roar of the crowd until this show. At the end, the people leap to their feet. They're throwing babies in the air. It's crazy.
I'm thrilled to see you in long flowing tresses!
Yes! I have a Farrah Fawcett wig!
Fabulous! Now, other than you and that wig, why do you think that gay people will particularly be interested in this show?
Well, Hank Azaria's character, Lancelot, turns out to be gay, and he gets married, so there's a gay wedding in our show. And there's a big Peter Allen number!
Since the show is so tight and depends on timing and chemistry, was it hard replacing Douglas Sills [who left the show] and coming into it after they had already begun rehearsing?
I was actually doing Cinderella at the time, so I was doing double duty for a while. They had already been rehearsing for five weeks and the following week we were going to Chicago. I was closing Cinderella on the weekend and then going to Chicago on Monday. It was kamikaze acting. You just kind of throw yourself in there and hope for the best, you hope that you hit something. Apparently kamikaze acting in this show is exactly what they were looking for. It worked out great and I'm having a ball.
That City Opera production of Cinderella was the gayest Cinderella ever!
What do you mean?
I mean Lea Delaria as a stepsister, Lypsinka as the stepmother, Eartha Kitt as the Fairy Godmother'
Ren'e Taylor as the Queen. We had a ball!
Any good Eartha Kitt stories?
She's the sweetest of all! It is amazing just working with someone like her. All she has to do is walk on stage and people go crazy.
Well, she's a consummate pro. She works every undulation!
I worked with her on [the AIDS benefit] Broadway Bares a couple of years back. She came out and sang 'Love for Sale,' and I was one of her backup boys. All we were wearing was skintight dress pants and sandals. She comes through the door and stands there for five minutes and the audience goes nuts. We never actually got to rehearse with her! She just showed up. Our only direction was 'Don't let her fall.' That's all we got. Luckily, we knew what we were doing. But Eartha would just throw herself around. She would kick her leg up and I would catch it and I was like, 'Oh! There's a leg.' And then she would fall backwards, completely trusting that we would catch her. It was fantastic, without any rehearsal whatsoever.
And now you've gone from shirtless and tight pants to a full suit of armor.
Yeah, I feel like Maude, actually. I'm wearing this big long thing, which is basically a dress. But there is that wig, and I work it for every hair on my head.
What was it like to be directed by Mike Nichols?
Mike is quite possibly the best director I've ever worked with in my entire life. He's a sculptor. At first, when I jumped into this company and I didn't know how they were working, that kamikaze thing, I asked the cast and they were like, 'You're doing exactly what he wants you to do. Just go and find and discover.' He let us discover whatever we wanted. Then when we got into the theater and he had all the elements, he turned into this amazing sculptor. He is just the best, and so is Eric Idle. Just the sweetest man. And willing to try anything.
It's so great that after It's All Relative, you never stopped working.
I never take it for granted. I feel very, very lucky. I just feel that I am at the right place in the right time most of the time.
Are you happy to have done It's All Relative, even though it was so short-lived?
Luckily it was my second series, so I learned from the first one: Save your money. Don't go crazy. I didn't and I still have money left. I've also learned over the years that you have to move on. When the series was canceled, of course I was disappointed, but the second you dwell on it, you start to go into this dark hole of despair. I got great friends out of it. I'm grateful for that. It was great fun and you get to meet some fabulous people.
Do you feel proud of the series' social and cultural significance?
Oh, definitely! John Hickey and I talk about that all the time. It was television history. We were the first gay couple principal players. It was a great thing to be part of. You know, with the show, we were kind of expecting backlash and controversy, and none came. There were people who were like, 'Are you sure you want to come out?' But I've always been gay and the fact that I'm gay has never affected my career. It hasn't hurt me at all.