New York City, NY

Seth Sikes Celebrates The 1920s In His Upcoming Show At Feinstein's/54 Below

Jeryl Brunner

There are multitaskers and then there is the multifaceted Seth Sikes.  A talented performer, originally from Paris, Texas, Sikes appeared off-Broadway in Fame on 42nd Street. He is a nightclub singer known for his Judy Garland tribute show which won a Broadway World Award. Sikes has also performed shows devoted to Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters.

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Seth SikesJD Urban

When he is not performing, Sikes is an accomplished director. His credits include the New York Fringe Festival hit musical Bunked! He was also the assistant director of several Broadway and off-Broadway shows including The Band’s Visit, The Nance, Tribes, Pageant and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert

This month, on October 20th at 7pm, Sikes brings his show Seth Sikes Sings the ‘20s, Etc.! to Feinstein’s/54 Below. Backed by a seven-piece band, Sikes performs tunes from a century ago and more. “So much of what is great about American music started in the 1920s,” explains Sikes who enlisted director Eric Gilliland and music director Matt Aument for the show.“Under prohibition, the songs were naughty and a new sophistication was brewing. It's no wonder that so much of this music is still roaring a hundred years later.”

What inspired your show, Seth Sikes Sings the 20s, Etc.?

I have done over 13 shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below and they have always been tributes to ladies of the theater, like Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters. I wanted to break away from being the guy who just does that. Also, the kind of songs that I am attracted to are really old songs. I respond to songs from the twenties.

It’s such a beautiful era in music. Why do you love that era musically?

It was right after the war. Before the depression and prohibition. America was figuring out its sound. It was a period when we got all those great Gershwin songs. And Cole Porter was starting to write. In a lot of ways it was the birth of what we describe as contemporary American music. Also, a lot of the songs are bawdy.

All those double entendres.

I have a lot of fun with that.

What's a song you love from that time?

“Let’s do it.” You know, “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.”

I also found these really incredibly filthy blues songs. I’m not going to do it here because it’s so filthy. You wouldn't believe it.

When did you know you had to be a performer?

When I discovered MGM musicals. As a little boy and I would be on the playground singing these old songs as people teased me. I would be singing "Me and my gal” on the playground.

Did you know other kids who were obsessed with MGM musicals in Paris, Texas?

No. Absolutely not.

How did you discover MGM musicals?

My aunt liked Judy Garland. She would show me those films when I was younger. And I got even more obsessed than her. I would also sing at church. But it wasn't until high school when I discovered theater. My theater director, said, ‘You should go to this Broadway camp.’ So I went to Broadway camp and met all these people who were just like me. It was amazing. And then I moved to New York and met all the theater community.

What was one of the first shows you were in?

In school I was in Once Upon A Mattress in the ensemble. But two years later, I was Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I moved to New York to go to Circle In The Square Theater School. I graduated on a Friday and then auditioned the next day for Fame on 42nd Street. So I was in a musical version of Fame, got my Equity card and the show closed two weeks later. Then I started auditioning but thought, this is not the lifestyle for me. I wasn't very good at acting. Now I mostly work as an associate director in the theater. I was the associate director of The Band’s Visit.

What was one of the first shows you worked on in New York City?

The first show I worked on was selling programs for Gypsy with Bernadette Peters. I sold programs outside the theater. Even when I wasn't working, I would watch “Rose’s turn” and "Everything's Coming Up Roses “as much as possible. I completely fell in love with that show and Bernadette.

What do you hope people take away from the your show?

I hope people leave remembering how great these old tunes are and even though they are 100-years-old, they still hold up.  I hope I can do them justice.

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New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY
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