Entertainer Cheyenne Jackson who has enjoyed one of the most diverse careers as a star of theater, film, television and the concert hall joins Michael Feinstein for a evening of music from the Great American Songbook, Saturday, April 29 at 8 p.m. at Carmel’s Palladium
Feinstein, is a multiple Grammy-nominated cabaret star, founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation, artistic director at the Center for the Performing Arts and one of the premier interpreters of American standards.
The versatile Jackson has played leading roles on and off Broadway (“All Shook Up,” “Xanadu,” “Damn Yankees,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “The Performers”), appeared on hit TV shows (“American Horror Story,” “Glee,” “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and won praise for roles in “United 93” and other films. He also has released three albums of pop music, including a 2009 collaboration with Feinstein, “The Power of Two.”
Yesterday I spoke by phone with Jackson from his L.A. home which he shares with his husband Jason Landau and their nearly seven-month old twins— boy Ethan and girl Willow.
You were scheduled to perform at the Palladium last March with Michael but had to cancel due to illness. What occurred?
I got sick. Sadly. I was feeling kind of crappy before I left and when I landed I thought ‘I can just soldier through this.’ When I got to Carmel I had a horrible fever and body aches and I couldn’t do it. I spent two days in a hotel. I already had the tickets to Indiana and thought ‘You know what, I can either be sick here, or sick on the plane or go home and be sick so…’
As a performer, how does it feel to have to cancel a gig? Has that happened to you before?
Horrible. Never. It’s horrible. Michael had to bear the brunt of it and do a solo show. I was already there in Carmel. It was a horrible feeling.
At what point did decide to cancel?
I couldn’t physically make sound. That was the thing. If I could have still sung, even though I had a fever and shakes, I would have still done it but I couldn’t make a sound. Also, Michael didn’t want to get sick. He was about to embark on a huge European tour a few days later and I knew they were nervous.
What will the program consist of Saturday night?
Well, kind of a combination of songs we were going to do last March. Definitely stuff from our album (“A Power of Two”) and stuff that we know, two new songs that we haven’t done before and two or three songs from my newest album “Renaissance.”
The last time we spoke, you were about to go into the studio to record “Renaissance.” The critics liked it a lot. How did your fans receive it?
Good. I have gotten really good feedback. After shows, people tell me how much they like it. It’s in my sweet spot. It’s my kind of music and I was happy to record it.
How did you arrive at the title?
Titles are important. I wanted it to encapsulate who I am as a singer and artist. I remember an article in which I was described as a Renaissance man and I thought ‘I like that’ but I can’t call myself that but I can say Renaissance (Laughs).
You sing “Somethin’ Stupid” on the album with your “30 Rock” co-star Jane Krakowski. What was it like recording with her?
Oh, I love Jane. She is solid. Great person. A pro. We’ve sung that song a couple of times together at benefits and things and I thought ‘What a great time to get a great lush arrangement of it.’ Actually our schedules didn’t match so we weren’t able to record at the same time but through the magic of recording it sounded like we were.
Will you be joining the cast in the upcoming seventh season of “American Horror Story?”
I don’t know yet but I would love to go back.
How did you like your character (TV producer Sidney Aaron James) in “American Horror Story: Roanoke?”
Fun. So much fun. I always enjoy playing someone who is considered a bad guy. I didn’t think he was bad. It was fun and very over the top.
How did you like Ryan Murphy’s “Feud?”
I loved it. Absolutely fantastic. It was really what television can be.
The attention to detail in the art direction of “Fued” phenomenal. Would you agree?
Absolutely. It’s ridiculous. It speaks to the quality of Ryan Murphy’s work.
What did you think of the series’ message regarding the treatment of women actors during Joan Crawford and Bette Davis’ time in Hollywood?
Very powerful. I loved it that Susan (Sarandon) and Jessica (Lange) got to say those lines and I am sure in their own way, they have experienced some of that. I thought it was amazing. I thought Ryan handled it very sensitively and thoughtfully.
In terms of your career, you seem to have been under the radar. Is it because you and Jason have children now?
Yes, I took six months off to be a daddy and they have been such a joy. But I am back to work now doing a series called “American Woman.” with Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari. It is set in the 70s and is really, really great. It will air sometime early next year. It’s based on the life of “Housewives of Beverly Hills” reality star Kyle Richards. She was a child star along with her sister and this is her life story. Alicia is playing Kyle’s mom. It’s about motherhood and woman’s issues. Really great people are involved.
On which network will it air?
It was TV land which is no more because Paramount bought it out. It’s a new network called Paramount TV which will be launching soon
Working on any theatre projects?
Not yet. I was in New York last weekend and saw a couple of shows. I am definitely missing it.
Have you done any concerts or cabaret shows?
I did a couple of shows in San Francisco recently which was my first big recent gig. Then, of course, there is this weekend with Michael.
I did a movie version of Michael John LaChuisa’s musical “Hello Again” with Audra McDonald and Martha Plimpton which will come out in four or five months.
Let’s talk about your and Jason’s little boy and girl. Have Willow and Ethan formed personalities yet?
Starting to. They are both happy and healthy and strong and it’s really fun to see them come to life. They are such a blessing.
How have the twins changed your life?
Well, it it’s not just about me anymore. For 42 years my life has been about me and what I want and what I feel. Now they look at me and I and think they say “It’s not about you dad.”
What are your dreams for them?
I just want them to be happy and fulfilled. I want them to be free.
As a gay person, could you ever have imagined being a dad?
Yes. I always thought I would be a dad. Of course there was a period where I didn’t think it was going to happen because of the situation I was in years ago in my first marriage. And I just thought ‘I am just going to have to let this dream go.’ And then four years ago when I met my husband Jason and he wanted kids, it was just kind of reawakened. But I did see it for myself, for sure.
Has your recovery informed your roles as dad and husband.
For sure. It is everything. I am coming up on four years sober. I am now totally present for every decision I make in my life. It is not a walk in the park. Sometimes it is super hard but it’s the only way I can be there for myself and my family.
Do you gladly take on your status as a role model for young LGTBQs?
I am happy to. I hear that people look up to me, especially now that we have had kids. I am hearing a lot from people on social media that ‘You’re my role model. I hope to have what you have one day.’ You know, it is not something that I set out for but if these people are inspired by me just living my life with integrity and honesty then, great. But is definitely not my goal to bed role model but I am happy that it helps people if I am.
In terms of your career, what would you like to accomplish that you haven’t yet. Any dream roles or people you want to work with?
I don’t know if my dream role has been written yet. The next thing I do on stage I want it to be original and not a revival. I would love to do a really great comedy on stage. As far as comedy goes, I would love to do my own show. I’d like to have my own single camera show. I love being in an ensemble and being a supporting character but it’s time for me to have my own show. I think that would be great. That’s what everybody wants but I would like it too.
What can people expect if they come to see you and Michael in concert? Having seen the two of you perform twice before you seem to have great chemistry.
People can expect great music. Definitely we’ll be off the cuff sometimes because Michael is quick-witted. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We haven’t sung a lot of this music together. We are going to be looking into each other’s eyes and trying to remember our lyrics and crack each other up. I look forward to being on stage with Michael.
On a scale from one to ten, what number reflects the quality of your personal life right now?
(long pause) Ten. I have everything I have always wanted.
For tickets and information about Michael Feinstein & Cheyenne Jackson’s concert visit thecenterpresents.org or all the Center For The Performing Arts ticket office at (317) 843-3800.