Cheyenne Jackson: Rainbow High

Busy Broadway heartthrob and gay rights activist Cheyenne Jackson chats about his Finian’s Rainbow revival, his politically charged cabaret CD, and laying around in his underpants.




More high-profile Broadway stars like Gavin Creel and Jonathan Groff have officially come out in recent months. Creel told that he’d been inspired by you. Are you aware that you’ve become a role model for young gays on Broadway?
I definitely feel that when I see everybody at events and stuff. Gavin in particular has been a friend for a long time -- my first show after I moved to New York was with him — so I was very proud of him. It was a big step and I’m happy that he credits me as an inspiration, but the challenge I gave to him was, “OK, you’ve come out, but now you have to do something about it.” And he is. He’s working hard, giving back, and setting an example for the other young people coming up, which is the best thing you can do. But I still feel like everybody has their own journey and path. Yes, it’s great when a David Hyde Pierce or a Cynthia Nixon publicly comes out and puts a face to the cause, but no one should be forced to come out for the sake of politics and moving forward.

What was the impetus for The Power of Two at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency?
Michael and I met about a year ago when we were both booked on the CBS television special for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Bryant Park. It was a really cold evening and we met in a warming tent backstage. We bonded rather quickly because we had a lot in common, which I found surprising just because we’re both from such different worlds. We were both fans of each other, so we decided to do a show together. We each brought songs to the table because part of the deal was to bridge the gap not only between our generations but also between our styles of music and the art that we create. I brought some stuff I thought would rock his world and he did the same. One of the songs I brought was “The Power of Two” by the Indigo Girls, who I was pretty sure he didn’t have in his iPod. It’s very outside of what he does, but he loved it and loved the challenge. After that, the show organically fell into place.

Well, it doesn’t get much gayer than the Indigo Girls, but how did you and Michael both being openly gay inform the show otherwise?
I didn’t expect the show to be as political as it was, but it just naturally ended up being that way. One of the songs Michael wanted to do was “We Kiss in a Shadow” [from The King and I]. Everyone knows that Michael is the keeper of the Great American Songbook, and I’ve never met anyone who’s more of a savant when it comes to these songs and keeping the purity of exactly what the writer initially intended. Apparently, that song was written with gay undertones and became a gay anthem even in its day, a time when it couldn’t be talked about. So we decided to do that song but without commenting on it or singing it to each other like we were in love; we just stood on opposite sides of the stage and sang it. But that song ended up being the emotional epiphany in the show for a lot of people and the thing everyone talked about in the reviews.

Tags: Music