Cheyenne Jackson at The Cabaret: Mad Man's Love Songs
Cheyenne Jackson kicked off his Cabaret performance Friday evening with the well-sung yet overused “Feeling Good.” A seeming staple of the genre and format, it was performed with precision but lacked anything new to make the audience feel especially good. Admittedly I was a bit nervous when the show stepped off on this foot, but Jackson quickly grabbed my attention with a commanding 6’3” presence and voice.
The rest of his first act featured standouts like the wonderful fusion of “I Get Along Without You/Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and the Tom Jones version of “I (Who Have Nothing),” made famous by Ben E. King and, of course, the magnificent Dame Shirley Bassey. Another wonderfully poignant turn came courtesy of Jackson’s “heterosexual life partner,” music director and accompanist Ben Toth. His arrangement of Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” created a soulful setting that let Jackson wrap his voice around every sad, sexy line. It became abundantly clear as the evening rolled on why Kristin Chenoweth playfully attempts to steal the shoeless piano-playing Toth from Jackson, which the latter quipped about a couple of times.
Throughout the second act, Jackson fearlessly shared his personal growth through sobriety in the past two years and in doing so, connected deeply with the audience. Foreshadowing the story he was about to share, he began the second act singing the late Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” and later showed off his own writing chops in singing a personally penned tribute to his late grandmother, “Red Wine.”
Next, just when it seemed the night couldn’t get more intimate, Jackson sat down on a chair among audience members to sing Diana Krall’s arrangement of a Joni Mitchell classic, “A Case of You,” giving his own autobiographical touch to one of the world’s great lovesick songs. All too quickly the show ended with a Sam Cooke classic, what felt like an anthem for Jackson’s present outlook: “A Change Is Gonna Come.”