The last time you saw Christopher Sieber onstage, he was on his knees, playing diminutive megalomaniac Lord Farquaad from a precarious perch on two kneepads in the Shrek. The role, which earned him a Tony Award nomination, was a type Sieber knows well—the actor has made a career of playing larger-than-life male egotists, including Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Billy Flynn in Chicago and The Black Knight/Sir Galahad in Spamalot. In his current gig, the new off-Broadway musical The Kid, Sieber’s back on his feet as wry father-to-be Dan in the story of a gay couple trying to adopt their first child. Based on the real-life child-rearing experience of syndicated columnist Dan Savage, the show gives Sieber the rare chance to be himself onstage, playing to a house 1/8th the size he’s used to. We checked in with the as The Kid prepares to debut at The New Group’s off-Broadway home, the Acorn Theatre, getting his take on kids, the kind of parents you hate and the “gay play” trend.
Why do this musical?
The script came to me right as Shrek the Musical was ending. By the third page, I was laughing out loud—so of course I said yes. It was one of those things, too, where, when you’re reading it, you know who that character, Dan Savage, is, and it fit me, my silliness, so well.
Were you familiar with Dan Savage’s column, Savage Love, before you got the script?
I’ve read his column for years and had read most of his books, including The Kid, the one our show is based on—which is hilarious, by the way. People call in [to his podcast] with very intimate issues and he answers every question so bluntly and tells it like it is.
What’s the best question you've heard him deal with?
One in particular made me laugh because Dan didn't give any advice. He opened the door for readers to submit advice to a guy who wrote to complain about how he goes to 'meat market bars'-—places where girls are dressed in high heels and cute dresses—but the women he buys drinks for never have sex with him. What followed were 20 responses from readers telling this, shall we use the term 'douchebag,' that he was a total asshole. It was great. It was such an arrogant, douchey complaint, and I thought it was brilliant that Dan turned the tables on that jerk.
Has he given you any personal tips on how to better play him?
Luckily we’re not doing a life study here, so no, thank goodness, he hasn’t! I’m just telling his story with as much humor and verve as I can. It’s one thing to be playing someone who lived. It’s another thing entirely to be playing someone who is alive. He’s real, tangible—and fortunately lives in Seattle, 3,000 miles away, so is not as present and therefore scary as he could be. I met him during the reading process in January, and then he came to second preview—fortunately they didn’t tell me he’d be coming! He said it was utterly surreal watching me play him, and it’s just as surreal being him, knowing he’s watching.
Will you be meeting the titular kid?
They [Dan, partner Terry and son D.J.] are all coming to opening night, which is really exciting. I believe D.J. is about 12 now. I feel like I know so much about what they went through to get D.J. that actually meeting him is going to be pretty cool.
The show, like Dan’s column, is pretty blunt—there’s a whole joke on tea-bagging. Is this for a niche audience?
This show has something for everyone, trust me! I will say that it is savvy and smart, and some of the jokes—like the tea-bagging gag—go over certain heads. But The New Group has a smart, dedicated subscription audience, and the little old ladies who stick around on Saturdays and Sundays to meet us repeat what we hear from [edgier audiences] throughout the week, which is, “We thought this would be a gay story, but it's not at all—it's a love story.” That's true. This is a love story about family, where the parents happen to be gay. And let me tell you, those little old ladies love us, dahling, they love us! [Laughs.]
The Kid is all about becoming a parent. Do you like kids?
I like kids when they belong to somebody else. But if you're going to ask me if [my partner Kevin Burrows] and I want kids, the answer is absolutely not! We will never have children. I like my friends' kids, and they like me—Kevin and I get to be the fun, cool uncles a lot. But I fear if I had a kid, the child would starve to death. I can barely feed myself half the time. I can just hear it: 'Daddy, when are you going to feed me?' And me going, 'Oh, right, that. Uh, here, have this bag of M&Ms!' I'd be a terrible parent.
Do you like parents?
Oh, wow. Well, look—there are some parents on the Upper West Side of this city that for some reason feel their baby strollers must be the size of an SUV with fucking Baha tires on it. Where are you going with this thing? Hiking the Appalachian Trail, with your baby? What the hell is wrong with you people? Anyway, they seem to feel that the rest of us are bad people when we sneer at them for taking up every stray inch of sidewalk or store aisle or subway car with these things. Parents: Just because you have a baby doesn't mean you get special rights and privileges. You made a baby. Good for you. We're proud. But we do not have to change our lives because you changed yours. [Pauses.] Wow. I am totally going to get hate mail because of that. They'll say ‘Sieber’s a baby hater!’ But I'm not—I'm a parent hater. A that kind of parent hater.
So, if kids are not your thing, what do you hope to leave behind or make your legacy?
What would I like to leave behind? Ashes—I'm all about cremation. No, seriously, I have nieces and nephews I'll let carry the torch. But I can only live this life one day at a time, and to think about what I'm going to leave behind is a little heavy for me right now. I'm only 41! I've still got some life in me, baby!
You and [onstage partner] Lucas Steele are adorable together. How do you build a believable fake relationship with someone?
Both Lucas and I agreed that playing a couple meant putting as much work into it as a [real] couple. He lives near me, so we'd take every subway ride home from rehearsal together. We ate every meal during rehearsal together, just us, and would talk and talk and talk. We're always on stage together. As a result, we have what I think is a great, wonderful relationship onstage. People say, 'You look like a real couple up there.' And that is a real compliment, because we put a lot of work into that. But let me make it clear that every single member of this cast is terrific, and no one ever drops the ball. It's a terrific group of people.
You have a great off-stage partner as well. How did you and Kevin meet?
We were doing Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. I was Gaston and he was the Fork. Of course, that's a match made in heaven! We became friends before we got together, just by hanging out backstage. I had the Gaston wig on and fake chest hair—literally a merkin of chest hair glued to my hairless body—and Kevin was wearing gold stretch pants, and we looked hideous. I mean, truly hideous. The idea that we found each other attractive even with all that wild stuff is amazing. We both didn't want to date someone we were working with, and decided we wouldn't. But then he got a tour of The Full Monty and left the production and it was on. We've been together ever since. We [just] celebrated our nine-year anniversary.
The Kid is one of several shows, like Next Fall, The Pride and The Temperamentals, with gay lead characters.
There are a lot of "gay" musicals and plays out now—don't forget Yank! and La Cage. I think there's obviously an audience for these kinds of stories. Clearly people want to see them.
Is it a “trend,” as pundits suggest, or is just a coincidence that all these plays are being produced at once?
I don't know if a half dozen plays on and off-Broadway equal a trend, but it may be we’re experiencing a glut of mainstream gay theater. When the AIDS epidemic started, there was a glut of theater on that subject too, which has since died down. Who knows? I just think its fantastic people want to see these shows. I hate to sound like "The More You Know" guy, but any time someone who doesn't understand homosexuality goes, “Hey, gay people are just like us!” it's a good thing.
It’s great that gay characters are being mainstreamed, but all the shows out right now feature men. Where are the shows about lesbians or bisexuals?
You’re right, and I say: Write one. Seriously! We had a forum at The New York Times recently, and that question was raised. So I’m telling everyone to write that show. Go for it!
See Christopher Sieber in The New Group’s production of The Kid at the Acorn Theater on Theater Row.