Seth Sikes presents a Pride Weekend show at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below on June 24. | MITCH ZACHARY
Seth Sikes has a powerful, elegant voice, which he uses to sing standards made famous by Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Barbra Streisand, among a bevy of beloved divas. Sikes doesn’t try to perform like the divas who are his heroes; his show, instead, is his own personal tribute to them.
For his upcoming Pride Weekend show at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, he will be backed by a seven-piece band, which he promises “will knock you back” with its energy.”
Will Seth Sikes sing them all and stay all night?
Via Skype from Fire Island, Sikes chatted with Gay City News about his connection with Broadway divas, what he likes to sing, and how he expresses his pride.
GARY M. KRAMER: What is it about Broadway divas that you identify so strongly with them?
SETH SIKES: It all had to do with seeing “Summer Stock” when I was a little boy, and seeing Judy Garland singing show tunes, “Howdy Neighbor, Happy Harvest.” Her voice was the best, and I had never seen anyone do that. I watched it over and over again on VHS.
Then I heard her Carnegie Hall live recording. Judy was at an older age, and she was more raw then. I say it in my act — it scared me when I first listened to her Carnegie Hall recording. It didn’t sound like Dorothy. Or it did, but Dorothy had heartbreak and I understood “The Man that Got Away,” and it meant everything.
Judy and these songs have been part of my whole life. My obsession with Judy got me to New York, her songs got me through heartbreak, and her music got me back into singing. She’s been there for me my whole life.
GMK: What observations do you have about gay men finding so much inspiration in Broadway divas?
SS: The age old question, isn’t it? Why are we all so fascinated with these women? I don’t think it’s the whole “their lives are tragic.” I didn’t know they had tragic lives — and half of them didn’t have tragic lives. I don’t think we want to “be” them. But when you are a young gay man and you listen to these women sing a song and you hear the lyrics, you connect with them. I loved the songs because they are about men, and I love to sing about men.
GMK: What can people expect to hear at your show?
SS: I’m calling this “All My Hits.” I’ve done three tribute shows — Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Bernadette Peters — and it’s Pride Weekend. I thought I’d celebrate all the divas I’ve sung before at once. I have a stack of music to choose from and I’ll decide whether I’ll sing this song or that song, but people can expect to hear the most exciting songs from my previous shows, which include “Come Rain or Come Shine” by Judy, and “Maybe This Time” by Liza, and “My Man” by Barbra Streisand.
GMK: The show is a tribute, an interpreting, not an impersonation of these women. Can you explain why you perform in this manner?
SS: I am convinced every time I sing it’s Seth Sikes singing. There’s a certain energy I put into a song no matter who sang it. I don’t go into “Liza” or “Barbra” mode. I just sing it earnestly.
GMK: You started out working in theater as an actor and assistant director. Then you started singing. Can you describe your path to performance?
SS: After acting school and working in a few productions, I decided I didn’t want to live the life as an actor, with auditions and rejections. Through connections, I started working as an assistant director in theater, and now I’m working on “The Band’s Visit,” which is opening on Broadway in November.
But during all those years, singing was missing in my life so I was singing in piano bars, and after 10 years not performing I got up the nerve to do this one-night-only Judy show, back in 2015, and I’m still doing it now.
GMK: Have you thought of pursuing just a music career?
SS: People introduce me as a singer. I was never meaning to go in this direction, but I’m not going to stop singing standards. I don’t know that I will write my own music, but you never know.
GMK: Your show is a Pride event. What can you say about expressing your pride?
SS: Ha! Gosh, I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to express my pride than by singing these divas’ songs — or for people to come out to hear these songs.
SETH SIKES SINGS JUDY, LIZA, BARBRA, ETC. | Jun. 24, 9:30 p.m. | Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St. | $30-$70, plus $25 food, drink minimum | Reservations at 54below.com