Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Dance Party: Chasing Cheyenne

Cheyenne Jackson is one of the younger performers to star in the weekly Dance Party, a spot usually filled by a veteran actor, or, you know, somebody dead. Jackson is very much alive, and on his way to the top. He's worked a bit in film and TV, notably playing rugby athlete Mark "Let's Roll" Bingham in United 93, the film concerning the plane which was retaken by the passengers on 9/11. He is better known in New York theatrical circles, and has graduated from understudy gigs (he stood-by for both male leads in Thoroughly Modern Millie) to starring roles. He created some buzz in the off-Broadway smash Altar Boyz, and, on Broadway, has headlined All Shook Up and Xanadu.

Now, about Xanadu. I didn't see it, though I probably would have, had I had the opportunity. The authors apparently took the ridiculous film flop of 1980 and, with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, translated the thing to the stage. It got some respectable reviews and had a run of about a year, but at a 5 million dollar pricetag, it closed in the red.

During its run, the producers did all they could to drum up business, including sending the cast to television whenever possible. Actors appeared on Larry King and other yakfests, and numbers from the show appeared on Regis, The View, and even the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. From what I've heard from those who actually saw the show, this song does not do it justice. (Incidentally, though the film did not make money, its soundtrack surely did, with five top 20 hits, variously performed by Olivia Newton-John and the Electric Light Orchestra, all of which were included in the musical's score. One more note about the movie, and it's a sad one: it contains Gene Kelly's final screen performance.)

But back to the subject at hand. Cheyenne Jackson deserves some credit for never hiding his sexuality, and becoming a success just the same. He is part of a younger generation of performers who have never pushed their personal lives into the closet in order to be more employable (Gavin Creel, with Jackson above, currently starring in the revival of Hair, is another).

The fact that Jackson is on my radar, I assure you, has absolutely NOTHING to do with how he looks in those cut-off shorts. Or the tank-top, either. The fact that he is wearing an outfit similar to the one Bruce Jenner notoriously wore in another camp movie musical, Can't Stop the Music, is ABSOLUTELY IMMATERIAL.

Please enjoy Cheyenne Jackson and the cast of Xanadu performing on the Tony awards (yes, that's Broadway vet Tony Roberts leaping into the action). Cheyenne had a birthday this week, which is why he is appearing in this week's Dance Party. It has nothing to do with those cutoffs: