Cheyenne Jackson wants to “blanket [us] all with love” but not before singing us a rousing rendition of “Americano” and taking a sip of his water while not letting it go in the time it takes for him NOT to feel like he should be telling jokes. “…Why am I holding my water? I feel like a stand-up comedian…” as the audience echoes a chorus of laughter under the auspices of this so-called love blanketed duet. Well, he needn’t worry. Bill Cosby he is not, but mostly because, well… Bill Cosby cannot sing—and because, really, when push comes to shove, Bing Crosby is a much more apt approximation. He will then go on to further reel us in with a most resplendent rendering of “Bessame Mucho”!
So opens the final concert of the LA Philharmonic’s Song Book series for the 2013-2014 Winter Season! It seems as though no one is more surprised about this programming selection than Jackson himself! “Oh my God. WOW! So I had this idea I was going to come out and be like, (Sophisticated Masterpiece Theatre Host Voice) ‘Thank you [Ladies and Gentlemen] for coming out to the Walt Disney Concert Hall…’ But oh my God, this is my first time performing on this stage…and wow!” His wide-eyed enthusiasm is infectious and so pulls the first ambient snuggle of this so-called warm blanket of love just over our ankles.
To say his voice is powerful is an understatement, to speak nothing of its versatility. It will soar to near falsetto fancies, then dip down to the lowest of Levi Stubbsian levels from 0 to 90 in five seconds, the likes of which the finest of Italian cars…or would that be Indo-European Opera stars could only whimsically envisage.
Upon exploring melodies such as Forever Plaid’s “Angel Eyes” flanked by Jeff Parsons and James Campbell, one might feel as though they are a giddy schoolgirl sidling up to the Juke box in their favorite 1950s malt shop only to swoon over her favorite of the Four Freshman—even the 80-year-old men in the audience… (No joke! There was one sitting right next to me—no really I saw it—and it was clear that he had tapped into some teenage girldom we all share innately within us, the likes of which Jackson, Parsons and Campbell could only make possible in this instance…SWOON!)
Partaking of “Walking my Baby Back Home” one might imagine they are listening to an all male answer to The Manhattan Transfer.
Jackson will slink back out onstage solo after his swift 3-minute break (well costume change really, from black tails to white tux) as he croons, “You know I’m no good…” in a more cool customerish, swanky manner than even Bogart himself, should he ever have bogarted his way into the music scene—(as if acting wasn’t enough for him and as if he wouldn’t smoke whilst clutching steadfastly to any random gin joint’s piano intoning for a tip…)
In between songs, Jackson will entertain us with stories about his sister and her two children living in a town called Los Banos, “which I think means the bathroom”. He will explain his tendency towards black towels, “I have to have black towels ‘cause when I’m sweaty and I wipe it off, my man tan comes off. …I’m pulling back the curtain people.” And give us a little history of his life growing up in a *somewhat* backwards town in Idaho in a house with no running water for approximately five years, “living next to an Aryan Nation [compound]” wherein the only known gay folk were the lesbian couple who owned the dump, “dump dykes” and where his parents would only come to ascertain their own son’s alternate inclinations upon his enthusiastic discovery of a tape labeled “Billie, Ella, Lena, and Sarah” to complete and utter acceptance. Jackson’s father is in the audience and he blows him a kiss in an utterly touching moment.
Other stand out memories of the evening include Jackson’s duet of “Me and My Shadow” with Jane Lynch as she does a sprightly half skip out on to the stage sporting a svelte black pant suit; “Luck be a Lady” with the stunning Rebecca Romijn, gown-clad in what looks like a dress that’s made of diamonds and lime-green chiffon (both the fabric and the food) the likes of which Grace Kelly herself would be green with envy; and Jackson’s performance of “Mr. Lonely Boy” a song written by the performer himself “on a dark day in New York.” And the song?—It is really REALLY good and fits his voice just like Cinderella’s foot into that most magical and rare of slippers. Jackson will admit he chose to perform the piece as someone had informed him it sounded like something out of a “James Bond” film; and it kind of really does! Audiences the world over should look forward, not only to Jackson’s further songistry but supplementary composition the world over, particularly as he mentioned in a pre-show interview that he would like to “…write and produce an original musical. My wheels are turning already.” Well it is evident that they are and I can already say I am looking immensely forward to this.—So be watching People…be looking out for it!!!
The only aspect of the program did not completely work as well for me had to have been “A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action”. Jackson’s voice is a trifle more smooth and soaring and seems to do better in a more flowing, sweeping repertoire. Moreover the manner in which Presley punched out all notes in an immediate belt (in a style of singing I can only call ‘harmonious ham-handed-handiwork’—in other words–if ham-handedness had a sound—that would be it) as only his distinctive voice would allow, simply cannot always be duplicated. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson’s rendition works just fine, but not so much in comparison to the original which has been far too long a classic for any of us to forget.
The show closes in a sentimental version of “What a Wonderful World” and ends with a bang—quite literally, as a virtual firework of crepe paper hearts explodes on the stage and in various seating sections of the audience all in unison and that so-called blanket of love is finally pulled up over all our heads in a warm envelopment of entertaining song and artistry…
Oh yes, my love for Cheyenne Jackson has been actualized as will yours once you bear witness to this stellar, touching and compelling performer.
For more information on Cheyenne Jackson, his career and performance schedule, please visit: