Sieber wants boos on Broadway

Christopher Sieber stars as Miss Trunchbull in "Matilda the Musical."

NEW YORK - When you suddenly need a Broadway leading man, who can you call? What about if you have to have someone at a moment's notice to do demanding physical comedy?

It turns out that, at 6-foot-3 and with both matinee idol looks and an ability to absorb a script quickly, Christopher Sieber is a go-to for theater producers.

Sieber has jumped into some big musicals with only a few days' notice. With him, you're guaranteed the show will go on - even if he's sucking down oxygen backstage.

The two-time Tony nominee and "Spamalot" star jumped into "La Cage aux Folles" in 2011 as Georges when Jeffrey Tambor withdrew. When the show went on tour, he switched to playing Albin and his onstage drag persona, Zaza.

In "Shrek the Musical" as Lord Farquaad, Sieber spent nearly two years on his knees with a set of puppet legs in front of him. "I only do shows that apparently hurt me," he says.

So when two big, complicated Broadway shows needed someone quickly this spring, they turned to Sieber. He replaced Terrence Mann in "Pippin" without an audition or even having seen the show.

Now he has stepped in as the new child-hurling Miss Trunchbull in "Matilda the Musical."

He wears a fat-suit with a vest underneath packed with frozen gel to keep him cool.

He leaps and jumps on a trampoline. In other words, it's a perfect Sieber role.

As a kid growing up in Minnesota, he dreamed of one day just getting on Broadway. Now he had two at the same time. "This never happens! How fabulous was that?"

Sieber took time before a recent safety check at the Shubert Theatre to talk about his skills, the role that made him pass out and his take on Miss Trunchbull.

Q: You've gotten quite a reputation as the guy to call when someone needs a multitalented performer immediately.

A: It's a good and bad thing. It's a great thing because people are like, "Oh, you know who can go really quickly and do it really well? Christopher Sieber." But the other side is, "Oh my God! I have to go in a show in four or five days?" It's a good reputation to have but it also gets dangerous.

Q: What is it like to go into shows so quickly?

A: You don't have time to cry. You don't have time to think about anything. You just have to make sure you're out of the way of other people. I don't want to be that guy who inconveniences everybody and is the pain in the butt.

Q: Is your Miss Trunchbull going to be different?

A: Yes, I think it is. I think I'm scarier than any of the other Trunchbulls because I'm not playing this for laughs at all. I could take this part a whole other way. But I think it's much more interesting to make her scary. She's a horrible person. Let's make her horrible.

Q: Is it fun being that mean?

A: So much fun. When I go up the aisles, I see the audience lean away from me, like, "Don't touch me!" I love it! They're like, "You're horrible!" I'm like, "Thank you!" One day when I come out for my curtain call and the entire audience boos, then I've made it.