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by Anthony Chase
Broadway star sings tunes from the Mad Men era with the BPO
Cheyenne Jackson is next in what has been a lavish roster of Broadway personalities to perform with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in recent years. He’s bringing his “Music of the Mad Men Era” show, an update of his sold out 2011 Carnegie Hall concert.
With his incredible good looks and remarkable talent, “Broadway Star” was really one of Jackson’s very few viable career options. His first Broadway role was in Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002. Next he did Aida. He originated the role of Matthew in Altar Boyz off-Broadway in 2004 and then earned his first leading role on Broadway in All Shook Up (2005). That show earned him a Theater World Award for “Outstanding Broadway Debut.”
Other starring roles on the New York stage for Jackson include The Agony & the Agony (2006); Xanadu (2007) in which he replaced the announced star after he broke his ankle during rehearsal; Joe Hardy in the Encores production of Damn Yankees (2008); Woody in Finian’s Rainbow (2010) again for Encores; 8 (2011) about the proposition to deprive same sex couples of the right to marry in California; The Heart of the Matter (2012); and The Performers (2013)—a comedy in which he played a dimwitted porn star, that got trashed by the New York press, but which I loved.
He’s a popular cabaret entertainer. He’s been in films. He’s been on television, including guest roles on 30 Rock and Glee. He has recorded two albums of popular music, including The Power of Two with Michael Feinstein.
Jackson’s appearance with the BPO marks his first visit to Buffalo.
Growing up in northern Idaho, Jackson (whose father chose his first name after the popular 1950s television show) knew he was different from other kids.
“It was the 1980s, and I was listening to Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald,” he reveals. “I guess I fancied myself to be a large-voiced black woman.”
Like so many gay kids of another era, Jackson was rescued by an insightful teacher.
“I was not listening to Top 40, and Mr. Caldwell told me, ‘You were born in the wrong era, Cheyenne.’ He could tell that I loved the American Song Book. He could tell that I needed permission to like this other type of music.”
This turned out to be a life altering kindness on the part of an important teacher.
“Music became the saving grace of my life,” Jackson confides.
Music would take Jackson far from his home on 20 acres of rural Idaho where the family didn’t have running water, and where most boys aspired to become mill workers.
“We moved to Washington State, and I remember when I was in the 8th grade I went to see a touring production of Les Miz in Spokane. I can remember watching the actors and thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is their job! This is what I want to do!’”
And that, of course, is what Cheyenne Jackson has done, with a career that has inspired many other young hopefuls.
In describing the program he will perform with the BPO, Jackson explains that he pulls material from the American Song Book, including a generous roster of Broadway material. Expect “Feeling Good” (From The Roar of the Greasepaint—The Smell of the Crowd), “Luck Be a Lady” (from Guys and Dolls); and “Ol’ Devil Moon” (From Finian’s Rainbow).
Others have described the program as a selection that “takes you back to a time when bossa nova was new, the lounges of Las Vegas were hip, and catchy dance music was spinning on every hi-fi.” We’re talking songs recorded by the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.
“It’s a variety,” says Jackson. “Some Broadway, some jazz. A great song is a great song!”
If he sings “Besame Mucho,” people might faint.
Before we say goodbye I cannot resist asking: “Lady Gaga is your leading lady in the upcoming season of American Horror Story. What’s it like working with her?”
“She’s everything you want her to be,” Jackson reveals slyly. “She’s always prepared, she’s great fun, and she’s very good.”
The same has often been said of Cheyenne Jackson.
Jackson will perform with the BPO at Kleinhans Music Hall this Saturday, September 26th at 8pm.
For glimpses of Cheyenne Jackson performing....
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