The big question when it comes to Cheyenne Jackson is whether or not the intimate cabaret stage is enough of a venue for this dynamic multi-talented performer who does Elvis complete with swiveling hips. At last night's opening at the Café Carlyle, this Broadway star finessed the space with flair; you would think he was born to it. But no, growing up in Idaho with no running water and two goats, Harmony and Melody, as he charmingly informed the audience, he thought Broadway was one theater called Broadway. At six foot three, he was a likely candidate for football, but his understanding dad let him know, it was fine if running at giant guys wasn't for him. As it turned out, running at guys may have been just the thing: his show, titled "Eyes Wide Open," celebrates surviving a rough patch involving a divorce, the death of his grandparents, and awakening to another marriage, and sobriety. He met his husband at AA.
Accompanied by musical director Willy Beaman on piano, Vanch Cooper on drums and Michael O'Brian on bass, Jackson moved through his eclectic selection of pop tunes, "Stand By Me," "A Foggy Day," "Besame Mucho," and "Your Song," before introducing one he wrote with Michael Feinstein about his grandmother whose husband's death preceded hers, "Red Wine is Good for My Heart." The lyrics bespeak an aching loneliness: "There's no telling what I'll do since there's no you." His rendition of "Falling Slowly" from Once was a high point, as were his interpretation of songs from Lady Gaga and Joni Mitchell as arranged by Diana Krall.
Among his numerous credits, in late 2014, Jackson starred opposite Gena Rowlands in a movie, Six Dance Lessons. As a goofy gay ballroom teacher, he instructs this elegant wealthy widow the finer points of the cha cha and tolerance. At the exceptional Café Carlyle show, the norm is simply a healthy, sexy respect for love.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.