August has already been a big month for the American (but Scottish-trained) soprano ALEXANDRA SILBER as she’s just landed the part of Tzeitel in the Broadway revival of Fiddler On the Roof which opens on 12 November – eight years after she sang Hodel in the same show in the West End.
And it’s going to get even bigger next week when the tall, dark, striking 32-year-old makes her UK cabaret bow at Piccadilly’s Crazy Coqs.
From Tuesday through to Saturday she has a different guest each night and on Wednesday she will be duetting for the first time since they split up with Damian Humbley, the Australian star who met her when they made their West End debuts in the Lloyd Webber/David Zippel musical The Woman in White in 2005.
Silber and Humbley were an item for more than four years and they again worked side by side in Fiddler On the Roof when he played Perchik to her Hodel at the Sheffield Crucible and when the show transferred.
But Al (as she likes to be called) is far more than just a singer, as Musical Theatre Review’s Jeremy Chapman discovered when they had a chat about the five-night residency that kicks off the new cabaret season at the fashionable London nightspot.
Best known to British audiences for being plucked out of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as a raw student to play Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White and then doing Fiddler before landing the part of Julie Jordan in the 2008 revival of Carousel at the Savoy, Silber has wasted no time since in demonstrating her versatility.
She’s a TV actress too, guesting in three series of Law and Order, a professor at Pace University in New York where she teaches in the musical theatre department, and a professionally-performed writer – her modern versions of the Greek tragedies The Trojan Women and Antigone have already been staged, with Medea still to come.
“While the translations we had to work with were beautiful and poetic, they were also archaic. I wanted to write versions that resonated with young people and would make them actively want to read and act classical drama.”
And in keeping with her billing of “fastest-rising soprano in musical theatre… the firestarter for getting the Broadway world reacquainted with its legit sound”, she was Grammy-nominated for her Maria in the sumptuous West Side Story double-CD put out last year from the first full concert version of the show she did with the 85-piece San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the great Michael Tilson Thomas.
She’s just done Eliza Doolittle with Anthony Andrews in St Louis and rumour has it the reason why her final show at Crazy Coqs next Saturday will be at 9pm, an hour later than the rest of the week, is that Silber might be a late entry into the John Wilson Orchestra’s late-afternoon Bernstein concert for BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
“I do like to stretch myself,” she says, her enthusiasm for everything theatrical or literary, whether it’s classical acting, singing Jerome Kern or writing her fascinating London Still blog, bubbling over. She’s no rookie either when it comes to cabaret as she’s performed at New York’s finest, the now-shut Feinstein’s and 54 Below.
So what does the Michigan-born Silber who chose Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire as her escape from the pain of losing her father at 18 – “Glasgow is the Paris of the 21st century,” she declares. “I loved it and if I could do my work as well from there as I can from New York, I’d live there again” – have in store for her return to the UK where she spent the first nine years of her adult life?
“Well, there will be some Jerome Kern, because I love Kern, I’ll be doing ‘He Likes Me” from She Loves Me because it’s from a show I did that I adored, there’ll be a patter song, there’ll be a bit of Kurt Weill and Cole Porter (her ‘I Hate Men’ was a star turn in in the semi-staged Kiss Me, Kate for last year’s BBC Proms) and, generally, I’ll be doing the great old songs in a new way, my way.
“There’ll be guests, all friends I have met along the way – and a musical quiz each night where the audience can win a prize!
“My first guest, Howard Goodall on Tuesday, wrote Love Story which I did in Philadelphia; on Thursday it’s Julie Atherton – I’ve done a lot of concerts with her and sang with her when she made her US debut at the Lincoln Center, she’s so funny. On Friday I’m looking forward to singing with Simon Bailey for the first time – I got to know him because he was in a band with Jeremiah James who was Billy Bigelow when I did Carousel – and Gina Beck, a great pal, will be with me for Saturday’s final show.”
And Damian Humbley on Wednesday? “He was my first real adult love. It really hurt at the time when we broke up and I went back home to take a break and heal my heart. But within three weeks, I had an agent, a manager and nine months’ work!”
And a Broadway debut as Maria Callas’ first student pupil in Master Class with Tyne Daly.
“It will be great to sing with Damian again. Sometimes, relationships don’t end, they just change…”
* Alexandra Silber will be appearing at the Crazy Coqs from 1–5 September.
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