Wednesday, October 29, 2014


To read my review at Talkin' Broadway, click here.

The music that is made when you pair a perfect vocalist and a perfect orchestra can be stunning. That's exactly what audience members experienced this past weekend when Cheyenne Jackson performed two concerts with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. Jackson, while not exactly a household name, has starred in three Broadway musicals, had featured recurring roles on such hit TV shows as "Glee," and "30 Rock" and has also appeared in several, mostly independent, films. But his voice and stage presence are sublime, with pure, clear vocals and plenty of charisma that echoes such famous "entertainers" as Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and even Frank Sinatra. Those men also knew their way around large orchestral jazz arrangements, and that feeling and tone were also present with the masterful playing of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra.

Besides a spectacular voice, Jackson also has an abundance of charm which, when combined with his personal stories, added an added individual touch to each song. Jackson mentioned how he grew up poor in a small town in Idaho where they had no running water for five years but had two goats named "Harmony" and "Melody." Jackson said that seeing his first touring Broadway show of Les MisĂ©rableswas a life changer and made him realize what he wanted to do with his life, though it would take him many more years before finally deciding to move to New York and try to make a living as an actor and singer.

Along with his growing up tales, he also focused, with just the appropriate amount of balance to not go overboard, on his realization a couple of years ago that he was an alcoholic, and how his sobriety helped him not only become a better man, but achieve a clarity in his life.

That clarity came across in his vocals, which were highlighted with exceptional deliveries of three songs from Broadway shows, including an impeccable "Something's Coming" from West Side Storywith pure, rich vocals and his eyes searching the auditorium perfectly in tune with the lyrics, and a jazzed up take on "Old Devil Moon" from Finian's Rainbow. Saying it was a role he hoped to play one day, he delivered a lush Frank Sinatra inspired take on Guys and Dolls' "Luck Be a Lady." He also performed some upbeat Latin influenced arrangements of "Americano" and "Besame Mucho," which showed the deep tones his voice is able to achieve, along with the recent Michael BublĂ© inspired take on "Feeling Good" and a rousing "I (Who Have Nothing)" that showed Jackson's perfect control of his voice. His playful rendition of the Mac Davis penned Elvis Presley hit "A Little Less Conversation" included a touch of Elvis' trademark snarl and some skilled pelvic thrusts.

But it wasn't just standards or American Songbook selections that he wrapped his pipes around; he also showed his skill on some recent tunes, including an excellent take on Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" with a fun, winking, playful deliver of lyrics such as "I told you I was trouble, you know that I'm no good." Talking about his sobriety and how he lost himself before he realized he was an alcoholic, and how he had to fall back into the man he knew he could be, he delivered a heartfelt, emotional version of Once's "Falling Slowly" that turned the lyrics "Take this sinking boat and point it home, we've still got time, raise your hopeful voice you have a choice, you'll make it now" into a personal journey of discovery. A piano accompaniment only arrangement, played by musical director Ben Toth, of Joni Mitchell's classic "A Case of You" received a beautiful meditative rendition.

The personal moments also included two tunes Jackson penned himself, which were actually quite good: the introspective "Mr. Lonely Boy," which showed the emotional impact of his personal experiences, and a touching tune he wrote about his grandmother, "Red Wine is Good for My Heart." Act one ended with a smashing, inspiring take on the Sam Cooke classic "A Change Is Gonna Come" and an encore pairing of "What a Wonderful World"/"Auld Lang Syne" that was the perfect ending to a perfect evening. The Phoenix Symphony, under Randall Craig Fleischer's accomplished conducting, proved once again that they are able to play any type of music with absolute skill, not only in their expert accompaniment to the varied styles of songs Jackson sang but also with the act two opener of Charlie Parker's "Shaw Nuff" which featured an impeccable sax solo in the brass and woodwind focused arrangement.

Cheyenne Jackson and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra was another perfect example in the Symphony's series of "Pops" concerts.

Cheyenne Jackson with the Phoenix Symphony played two performances on October 24th and 25th, 2014, at Symphony Hall in Phoenix. Information for upcoming performances with the Phoenix Symphony can be found at

Photo: Courtesy Cheyenne Jackson/Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

No comments:

Post a Comment