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Monday, July 21, 2014

30 Rock's Cheyenne Jackson Comes to S.F. To "Sing His Guts Out"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony and Cheyenne Jackson
  • Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony and Cheyenne Jackson

There's a certain something about TV and Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson that makes him alluring. Just ask Tina Fey, who, after seeing him in a production of "Damn Yankees," waltzed up to Jackson and said, "Hi, I love your timing and your big midwestern face," and immediately offered him the role of hunky-dory Canadian Danny on her hit TV show 30 Rock. He appeared on the show for a few years with impeccable timing, a big handsome face, and some of the best lines. (When his character was asked what he liked about Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon, he responded by saying, "She has really thin lips but she makes up for it in tongue girth." Great line or greatest line?)

But before he was on 30 Rock making-out with Tina Fey's big tongue, Jackson's focus was entirely on Broadway, where he earned his stripes working on musicals like "Altar Boys" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

"Theater," he say, "there's nothing like it. It's a fleeting, ephemeral, one-night-only experience between you and the audience and then it's gone that night."

Like his character on 30 Rock, Jackson is warm and open -- so it's not very surprising that his favorite part of live theater is the intimacy between performers and patrons.

"That's priceless to me, that give and take from an audience. You know?" He adds, "The lady crinkling her wrapper, the guy whose phone went off, whatever -- only the people in that room experience it."

Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony and Cheyenne Jackson
  • Courtesy of the San Francisco Symphony and Cheyenne Jackson

And he hasn't given up on theater in lieu of television work. In between TV projects Jackson creates and performs in countless shows across the country, the newest of which comes to San Francisco Symphony this Thursday.

"My genre is kind of a throwback. My teachers always used to tell me, 'Cheyenne, you were born in the wrong era -- your manners, your voice, your style is just different.' So I started doing music of the Mad Men era a couple years ago, but [I] wanted to make a [cohesive] show, and an entertaining and personal show based off of that. I wanted something still within that genre but something that wasn't so limiting."

The end result? Hello Gorgeous! Cheyenne Jackson Goes to the Movies -- a night of film tunes that spans movies from about six decades -- everything from Top Hat to Goldfinger to Stand By Me (The latter of the three is super exciting to Jackson because, adorably, it was the first Rated-R movie he had ever seen.).

For Jackson, it will pretty much be a solo show, though he does have guest stars to help with a few of the numbers. And what guest stars they are: Broadway star Faith Prince, Australian drag queen/RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Courtney Act, and of course the San Francisco Symphony will be joining -- although it's tough to anticipate what exactly they'll be joining him for.

"I don't like to put the names of my songs in the programs," Jackson explains. "For this particular show I'm just going to put the name of the movie [in the program] so when it comes people will just be like, 'Oh my gosh!'"

Surprise songs, killer guest performers, and Jackson's big Midwestern face? "It's going to be entertaining," he says, and we have to agree -- that sounds pretty damn entertaining. "I'm going to sing my guts out."

San Francisco Symphony presents Hello Gorgeous! Cheyenne Jackson Goes to the Movies at 7:30 p.m. and it continues through July 25 at Davies Symphony Hall (201 Van Ness Ave). Tickets are $15-$60; call 864-6000 or visit

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF, Laura Jaye Cramer at @laurajayecramer, and like us on Facebook.

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