Up Close and Personal with Cheyenne Jackson

 By Richard Schultz, Oct. 9, 2014.

Virtuoso performer and heartthrob Cheyenne Jackson makes his Arizona debut with The Phoenix Symphony Oct. 24 and 25, singing a parade of popular songs from the Great American Songbook.

Jackson is known for his roles on Glee and 30 Rock, as well as his Broadway role in the stage adaption of the musical Xanadu.

Echo caught up with Jackson just as he returned to Los Angeles from his honeymoon in the French Indies with Jason Landau.

Echo: Congratulations on your recent wedding. How’s life as newlywed?

Jackson: It’s absolutely wonderful. It was a beautiful trip and a great way to start off our life together.

Echo: Tell me how the Phoenix Symphony concerts came about?

Jackson: I’ve actually been doing concerts for four or five years now. My friend and mentor, Michael Feinstein, encouraged me to do so. I have performed at the Kennedy Center and at Carnegie Hall. I’ve told my agents that I wanted to branch out. So, in the next year, I have 35 to 40 concert dates.

Echo: What appeals to you about doing concerts?

Jackson: It’s like theatre in the sense that you are out there without a net. Yet, you have to be yourself and not a character. It can be scary but extremely exciting. It’s a fully realized show. Each show is different. I talk a lot about what I have gone through.

Echo: So it’s up close and personal with Cheyenne Jackson?

Jackson: Definitely. It’s about my personal and professional life. I talk about getting sober and my relationships. I want people to be entertained with beautiful music, but I want them to see me in the music.

Echo: I once saw Liza Minnelli perform and she shared her insights on her life and songs onstage. Were you inspired by her or others to do the same?

Jackson: Liza is a friend and she always spoke about her trials. I made this choice for myself. I tried it at first by sharing what it’s like to be sober. I was so anxious about doing so. Yet, I became more comfortable with it and sang my truth. Once I shared more of myself on stage, everything came into focus with me. I gained clarity.

Echo: So, what will you perform with the Phoenix Symphony?

Jackson: I just finished the Phoenix set; I’ll sing “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and “I Who Have Nothing,” originally by Tom Jones, I really enjoy his version. I also perform a Diana Krall arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”

Echo: Any surprises for the audience?

Jackson: There are always a couple of surprises. Expect the unexpected. Michael Feinstein shared with me how important the relationship is with the audience. It’s a journey we take together. I’ll sing the first few notes and will have a feeling for the audience. I open my heart to the audience and that leads to a beautifully surprising evening.

Echo: Are you planning another album?

Jackson: I am planning another album with a few covers and original songs. It will probably be released next July. I’ve always written music and the albums are for me. They are very cathartic.

Echo: Is another Broadway musical in your future?

Jackson: I’ve been in LA for year and half. I’ve filmed five movies, which will be released in the next 10 months. I will always love Broadway, but I haven’t seen anything that has caught my eye lately. Right now, I’m unable to commit to a long run. There was talk of me performing with Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher in On the Twentieth Century. I get offered readings and workshops and have done several revivals. I would like to perform something written for me.

Echo: Any advice to aspiring performers?

Jackson: Get a super-thick industrial skin. Be tenacious. Nothing is going to be handed to you. If it is, you need to look at very closely if it is right for you. Be kind. Be conscientious. If you are an asshole, no one wants to work with you no matter how big you are.

Cheyenne Jackson with the Phoenix Symphony

Oct. 24-25

Symphony Hall

75 N. Second St., Phoenix

Tickets: $18-$83; 602-495-1999

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