The Good, The Short & The Ugly: Christopher Sieber Reveals What Goes Into His Matilda Baddie Miss Trunchbull
September 24th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
With 10 Broadway shows under his belt (six of them being Tony-winning Best Musicals or Best Revivals), two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber has proved to audiences that he can play it all. He’s been dashing in Millie, Chicago, Into the Woods, Triumph of Love and La Cage, wicked in Beauty and the Beast and Shrek and hilarious in Spamalot and Pippin. (Of course, Sieber also starred as the adorable dad in the Olsen twin sitcom Two of Kind for all you late ‘90s TV fans.)
Now, Chris Sieber is putting all these talents to work (well maybe not the dashing ones) as the no good headmistress Miss Trunchbull in the hit Broadway musical Matilda. The striking physical transformation aside, BroadwayBox wanted to hear from Sieber about how he becomes this beastly woman nightly and what his three biggest inspirations for creating Agatha Trunchbull were.
I have to start with Bertie Carvel, who originated the part. It’s a marvel what he was able to create from Roald Dahl's book; it was extraordinary. And having created characters before— going through rehearsals—this one is quite something. I had to pay attention to what he made of it, because it was absolutely brilliant. So my hat is off to him. When I met him, it was such a pleasure. Thank goodness he was the nicest guy, and he said, ‘she’s a rough one, isn’t she?’ This character is quite a departure for me. Normally I play things that are very funny and I go for the laugh, and what Bertie did—and I follow his lead on—is don't play it for laughs. I learned early on do it straight and do it horrible. I play it real and scary, and what happens is it’s funnier because of that. The more horrifying and horrible you are, the funnier it is. It was a new way to look at something and it works like gangbusters. And it continues as you go, more ways to be more horrible.
The second one, I didn't realize until a couple months into the run at Matilda, but I had a first grade teacher named Mrs. Erickson, and as a first grader, she was Agatha Trunchbull. She was so mean; she would smack us with rulers on our heads and flick us with her fingers and she’d tape people’s mouths shut if they were talking too much. And she was dressed in all black—black shirt, black top, knee high nylons with black hush puppies—I dare say she had a mustache and a bun pulled so tight back you’d think her eyes would squeeze out her head. I know I have a picture of her somewhere, and the only difference looking at what I wear as Agatha and what she wears is the color of the clothing. It is so wild.
The third one is Lord Farquaad and Gaston and a host of other bad guys that I’ve played, and now I’m playing a bad girl. And doing an evil character is so much fun; the difference is, as I said earlier, I usually play it for laughs. With Lord Farquaad, he loved being bad and he knew it. He reveled in the fact that he was horrible, and I drew from that well of playing bad guys, but rather than go for the laughs, I play it mean and horrible. People love to have someone to hate and boo at. The previous bad guy characters really helped me. There’s some experience in playing the bad guy that you know how to turn something on somebody and do something that makes the audience go, ‘oh no!’
Don't miss Christopher Sieber's performance in Matilda at Broadway's Shubert Theatre.