Jeremy Jordan has seen his career catapult over the last few years, with starring roles in Broadway's Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies, television's "Smash" and on the big screen in the forthcoming film version of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years. All of this stemming from a 2009 swing job in Rock of Ages and a stint as an alternate Tony in West Side Story (and one imagines he must have been pretty good in the role). Jordan is making his solo cabaret debut at 54 Below with an act entitled Breaking Character.
The 29-year-old Jordan begins by recreating his college audition, delivering "Anthem" (from Chess) as a nervous, awkward and very funny 18-year-old. This points to a recurring theme in the act: He is comfortable when he has a role to play and a built-in swagger to adopt — as can be seen when he sings "Bonnie" (as Clyde) or "Santa Fe" from Newsies. But he has trouble, he says, when he is breaking character; that is, performing as himself without a character to hide behind. A difficult childhood, including domestic abuse — he moved 13 times before college, he says, because his mother couldn't pay the rent — seems to have left the inside Jordan insecure. He has clearly conquered this with his various stage personas.
The man can certainly sing, as he establishes early on with "Moving Too Fast" from The Last Five Years. The act includes one song from each of his major roles, all excellent (including the unlikely-but-successful "Losing My Mind" performed as a tender ballad, which he first sang in the Sondheim/Marsalis A Bed and a Chair at Encores!). Ben Rauhala ably leads the six-piece band and serves throughout as Jordan's straight man — or, more specifically, his not-very-straight man (with Jordan continually trying to solicit dates for Rauhala).
Also on hand, for moral support and perhaps to shield Jordan from his many fans, is wife Ashley Spencer (from Grease and Rock of Ages). The pair join for two duets, a medley from Rock of Ages and another of songs from "Smash." Jordan is also joined by a guest at each performance; on Wednesday night it was Laura Osnes, who played Bonnie to his Clyde. Their duet joined "Ten Minutes Ago" (from Cinderella) with "The Next Ten Minutes" (from The Last Five Years), with Jordan doing an especially good job on the latter. The enthusiastic crowd clearly drew from extreme Bonnie & Clyde fans, supplemented even more by boisterous "Smash" lovers — so much so that the musical intros to the Smash songs drew cheers. Jordan plays Breaking Character nightly at 54 Below through Saturday Nov. 1, and then returns for four more performances through Nov. 13.