THE LEADING MEN: Hot and 'Cole'

News   THE LEADING MEN: Hot and 'Cole' Halloween is coming, so here are three "Leading Men" who are so talented that it’s scary: John Barrowman ("John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter"), Dmitry Chepovetsky (Top Gun! The Musical) and Jeremy Davenport (The Algonquin).
John Barrowman
John Barrowman Photo by Ben Strothmann

‘DE-LOVELY’ TO LOOK AT
With his gorgeous good looks and beautiful baritone, John Barrowman is a "Leading Man" who’s so "Easy to Love." And he’s often worked "Night and Day" crooning Cole Porter. As a high school senior, he starred as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes in Joliet, IL. In 1989, the sexy 6-foot-1 hunk made his London debut in the same role, opposite Elaine Paige. Barrowman, 37, recently returned to Anything Goes to raves at The National there. He also can be seen in "De-Lovely," Irwin Winkler’s new biopic of the wonderfully witty and gay composer; he plays one of Cole Porter’s lovers and does a dynamite duet of "Night and Day" with Kevin Kline.

And now First Night Records is releasing "John Barrowman Swings Cole Porter" on Oct. 5. Backed by a full orchestra and Larry Blank’s stellar arrangements, the CD showcases his rich, romantic crooning, and it’s one of the year’s best.

Barrowman is currently "Razzle-Dazzling" the Brits as Billy Flynn in Chicago ("They’ve spoken to me about doing it in New York"). He last appeared on Broadway in the 1999 Stephen Sondheim revue Putting It Together with Carol Burnett. He also scored as Bobby in Company at The Kennedy Center in 2002, and Sondheim raved: "You’re the first person to show me who Bobby truly was." On TV, he starred in CBS’ "Central Park West," and he’ll be in the BBC’s new "Dr. Who."

Each year, Barrowman holds "Dreamers Workshops" in Illinois, where he teaches high school students about theatre. Away from the stage, he finds "it’s so nice to come home to" Scott Gill, a British architect and his partner of ten years, and their two cocker spaniels. And he loves to cook ("I make a mean duck l’orange").

Question: Congrats on your new CD! You sound sensational belting "Anything Goes" and your rendition of "After You, Who?" is so heartbreaking and beautiful. What’s the most personal song on your album?
John Barrowman: "Miss Otis Regrets." My niece Clare used to dance to the Bette Midler version when she was four or five because she loved the music. Now she’s 17 and I sent her a demo of my recording and omigod, she said she didn’t realize it was about a black woman falling in love with a white man and being lynched. It just shows you how timeless Cole Porter’s music and lyrics are: A young girl once took it to be a song to jump around to, and now she realizes why Porter wrote it. Q: What did you discover about Porter in recording this CD?
Barrowman: That his songs were autobiographical. "Easy to Love" is actually a song he wrote for a man, not for a woman. When you hear the lyrics, "So nice to waken with, so nice to sit down to eggs and bacon with," that’s really risqué to say to another man in the 1930s. His songs are quirky and fun, but they’re an insight to Cole.

Q: One of the songs on your album is "I Happen to Like New York." Does it have any more meaning for you in the wake of 9/11?
Barrowman: Yes. I love New York. I visit all the time. I’ve lived here. I know country singers did their tribute to 9/11, and I knew someone who was on the American Airlines flight that went into the first [World Trade] tower. And I wanted to do something. Michael Feinstein introduced me to this song. It’s a proud song, and New York’s a proud place. I love Larry Blank’s arrangement. It’s like a defiant march, as if to say: "I’m not gonna bend [to terrorism] because I happen to like New York."

Q: You were born in Scotland, so you’re a British subject, but you grew up in Illinois and became a naturalized citizen, right?
Barrowman: Yes. I consider myself an American citizen. I’d fight for this country. And I love George M. Cohan. When I was 12 or 13, my first cast album was George M! Last year, I flew my entire family over to London for their Christmas present, and I sat down my five nieces and nephews, ages 2 to 17, and we all watched "Yankee Doodle Dandy." I love being able to pass on stuff to them.

Q: Speaking of movies, how was it filming "De-Lovely"?
Barrowman: Amazing! Kevin Kline was great fun to hang out with, and my sequence was based on something that really happened. Fred Astaire felt "Night and Day" was too rangy for him to sing. My character is an amalgam of that [incident] and one of Cole’s lovers. Except that Astaire’s estate didn’t want the inference that Fred was gay. I’m also proud to say that I did my vocals live.

Q: Some critics say that "De-Lovely" overromanticized the relationship between Cole and Linda Thomas, as if she were his true muse, when it’s said that he wrote songs like "In the Still of the Night" about his male lovers.
Barrowman: That’s Hollywood. Linda also was older and not as glamorous [as Ashley Judd]. But Cole adored her. The film took artistic license, but it’s still closer to Porter’s life than "Night and Day" [starring Cary Grant]. I loved doing it, and being involved with the resurgence of movie musicals. And to be asked by MGM was a dream come true. I love anything with Gene Kelly. That’s who I mold myself after. He’s so graceful yet masculine. I even got the thrill of meeting him once.

Q: There’s been talk of a stage version of "An American in Paris."
Barrowman: Oh, I’d love to do that. That would be fab!

Q: Earlier, your eyes especially lit up when you talked about your nieces and nephews. Would you like to have kids someday?
Barrowman: Yes, I would like to have one of my own. And just out of the blue, the daughter of one of my friends said, "If you and Scott ever want to have kids, I’d be happy to carry it for you." We’ve also talked about adopting.

Q: How did you and Scott meet?
Barrowman: Ten years ago, I was doing a show called Rope in Chichester Festival Theatre. I was doing my first play, so I was really excited. I joke with Scott now that he knew what he was getting [with me] because for the first ten minutes of the show, I was naked. Afterward, we met and click! I knew I’d spend the rest of my life with him. My parents love Scott and treat him as family.

Q: How did you deal with "coming out"?
Barrowman: I believe in a God that created us, and I was created this way for a reason. I knew I was gay by age nine. I came out to my parents at 22. My mother said she knew. My father asked: What about the girls I dated? I said I did what everyone else did. How could I have gone to my prom with a guy? The great thing is, when I went back to do my first "Dreamers Workshop" at my old high school, one boy went to his prom with a boy, and his friends were all fine with it. I was so proud of him!

For more information, visit www.barrowmanonline.com.

‘TOP’ COMIC ACTOR CRUISES ALONG AT MOCK-1
No one can accuse Top Gun! The Musical of flying under the radar. The hit of the 2002 Toronto Fringe Festival has landed at the N.Y. Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and is playing through Oct. 3. Written by Denis McGrath and Scott White, this Canadian show is about a kooky cast of actors trying to stage a musical version of the 1986 Tom Cruise movie about Navy pilots. Its comedy is collegiate, and not all of it flies, but whenever Dmitry Chepovetsky is center stage, this takeoff really takes off. He plays both Cruise’s character as the macho Maverick, and the deliriously dim witted actor who plays him: Chad, a nail-biting bundle of nerves. Chepovetsky recalls the comic genius of the dynamic Danny Kaye as he switches from one role to the other.

For his work, Chepovetsky, 34, was nominated for a Dora Award, Toronto’s equivalent of a Tony. He says, "Chad’s every wide-eyed musical theatre student. He’s excited about the process." Chad’s also clueless to come-ons from a gay castmate (Steven Gallagher) who’s so flaming that he could set off fire alarms. "It’s fun spoofing the homoeroticism in ‘Top Gun.’ If you watch the shower scene in the movie, wow, everyone has left, but Tom Cruise is still seen standing in his towel. It’s hilarious!"

Chepovetsky, who has spent two-and-a-half years doing Top Gun!, has family in the military. He also played a sonar operator of a submarine in "K 19: The Widowmaker," starring Harrison Ford. "It was exciting. The first movie I ever saw when I moved to Canada was ‘Star Wars’ and suddenly, I’m having drinks with him."

Chepovetsky, who was born in Ukraine, says, "I used to be really heavy. Kids called me ‘Da Meathead Chubba-Chunky.’" He also knew back then that "I love making people laugh, and I love to sing." To support himself, the six-foot actor has dressed up as a hotdog at a Jewish deli and played an elf ("I wore green tights and sang ‘Adeste Fideles’ and people asked me, ‘Does your Jewish mother know you’re doing this?’").

Happily, he has worked in theatres across Canada; written and performed in his own one-man show, Fetch; and done guest shots on "The X-Files." He plays a biochemist in the new Canadian cable series "Regenesis," which starts airing Oct. 20. And though film and TV work help pay the bills for this Toronto-based bachelor, Chepovetsky’s first love is the theatre: "It’d be my dream to live and work in New York, for sure. Every time I watch the Tony Awards, I cry. This city is so amazing."

For more information, visit www.topgunthemusical.com.

THANK HEAVEN FOR ‘ALTAR BOYZ’
Speaking of the NYMF, the soldout smash was Altar Boyz. This new musical about a Christian boy band is a heavenly and hilarious hit. Its story is communion wafer-thin, but it’s loaded with laughs. The Altar Boyz are wrapping up their "Raise the Praise" concert tour; they’re on a mission to save souls, but they do some soul-searching of their own. Immaculately conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport, with a witty book by Kevin Del Aguila, it is filled with toe-tapping tunes, like "Jesus Called Me on His Cell Phone," by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. Stafford Arima’s direction is bright and tight, and Christopher Gattelli’s incredible choreography is so "fly," it soars. All of the Boyz — Cheyenne Jackson, Tyler Maynard, Andy Karl, Ryan Duncan and David Josefsberg — are perfectly ’N Sync with their characters and they’re hotter than 98 degrees. Bravo to Kris Stewart and the NYMF for showcasing this inspired choice. Altar Boyz is the best new musical I’ve seen this season, and God willing, it’ll have an afterlife on Broadway or Off Broadway.

DAVENPORT’S GOT A HORN OF PLENTY
Jazz vocalist/trumpeter Jeremy Davenport is blowing into New York to make his Oak Room debut from Oct. 19-23 at the legendary Algonquin, and he won’t be the only one tooting his horn. Among the celebs who have trumpeted his playing, singing and showmanship are Wynton Marsalis, who first met him at age 12 and later coached him; Emeril Lagasse, who features him on his Food Network TV show, "Emeril Live"; and Harry Connick Jr., who took him on four world tours with his big band.

Davenport, 34, hopes his Algonquin gig will help skyrocket him to stardom: "I’ve always wanted to play that room. Harry Connick got his big break there, and so did another good friend of mine: Diana Krall," who dueted with him on his 1997 Telarc CD, "Maybe in a Dream." The handsome horn player offers jazz with pizzazz, and he’ll feature "my favorite music from the classic American popular songbook: Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hart. But I’ll do them in my own style — more like Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong." He’ll uphold the standards with classics like "There’s a Small Hotel" and slip in some of his own originals.

The six-foot musician regularly plays at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans, and female fans were really jazzed after People Magazine in 2001 named him one of "America’s Top 50 Bachelors," alongside Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and George Clooney. He says, "It was huge. Lots of girls came to see me, and I’m not gonna lie. I enjoyed it!"

Davenport’s quite a player, musically, but he’s not a player: "I believe in romance and I’m old-fashioned. I have a beautiful girlfriend, Nicole, and we’ve been together for two years. She’s a midwife in New York. And I’ve known her all my life. We grew up as kids in St. Louis. I travel a fair amount and I love to just send my girlfriend plane tickets and meet me wherever I go. She’s the best!"

For more information, visit www.jeremydavenport.com. WHERE THE GUYS ARE
There’s so much to see in New York: Many exciting singers will star in the "Queer Songbook: A New Generation of Broadway Composers" concert on Oct. 4 at 7 PM at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 W. 13th St. (212-620-7310, ext. 274; www.gaycenter.org). They’ll include "Leading Men" alumni Tom Andersen, Michael Arden, John Bucchino, Cheyenne Jackson and Max von Essen, plus great guys such as Harris Doran, Barrett Foa, Adam Fleming, John Hill, Eric Michael Gillett and Billy Porter. And there will be dazzling divas like Alix Korey, Karen Mason and Melba Moore. Seth Rudetsky is hosting, and Michael Lavine is producing and musical-directing. Tickets are $35; proceeds help fund the Center’s "Queer Songbook" series. Its next showcase on Oct. 21 at 7 PM will star Tom Andersen, a five-time MAC Award-winning singer-songwriter who’s played Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Time Out New York has called him "simply the finest male vocalist in town," and his poignant AIDS song "Yard Sale" has been sung around the world. Tickets are $10.

Feinstein’s at the Regency’s new concert series, "Broadway’s Brightest Lights," features two of our favorite "Leading Men": Michael Arden (Bare) on Oct. 4 at 8:30 PM and Gavin Creel (La Cage aux Folles) on Oct. 18 at 9 PM at 540 Park Ave. (212-339-4095). Cover is $25, plus a two-drink minimum. . . . Speaking of musical must-sees, there’s also BroadwayWorld.com’s "Standing Ovations 2" on Oct. 10 at 6:30 PM at Joe’s Pub, 425 Lafayette St. (212-239-6200). Directed by Jamie McGonnigal, the Broadway Cares concert will include Liz Callaway, Matt Cavenaugh, Alice Ripley and what’s sure to be a "Leading Men" highlight: Cheyenne Jackson and Jai Rodriguez doing the "Elephant Love Medley" from "Moulin Rouge." Tickets are $50.

Got questions or comments? E-mail me at waymanwong@hotmail.com.

Until next month, let’s hear it for the "boys"!

Wayman Wong edits entertainment for The New York Daily News. He has been a movie and a theatre critic for The San Francisco Examiner, a writer for The Sondheim Review and a Drama-Logue Award-winning playwright.

From Left: Tom Andersen, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Jeremy Davenport
From Left: Tom Andersen, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Jeremy Davenport Photo by David Morgan, Ben Strothmann, Daniel Lincoln
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