After focusing on his film and solo music career for more than a year, the Broadway heartthrob returns to his roots in the New York City Center Encores! production of Frank Loesser's 1956 musical The Most Happy Fella, which plays the historic venue April 2-6.
Jackson stars as Joe, a restless ranch hand caught in the middle of an unlikely romance between Rosabella, a young waitress (Laura Benanti), and Tony, an aging Italian grape farmer (Shuler Hensley), in Napa Valley.
Last onstage, albeit briefly, in The Performers, the "30 Rock" and "Glee" alum told Playbill.com about finding happiness in Los Angeles — and why it would take a lot more than a big train to bring him back to Broadway.
The Most Happy Fella is your third show with New York City Center Encores! after Damn Yankees and Finian's Rainbow. What keeps you coming back for more?
Cheyenne Jackson: I love the people and I love the pieces they do. I also love the quick pace, because I do get bored in a long run. It's difficult for me to concentrate on something for a year or even six months. I also really wanted to work with our director, Casey Nicholaw. He and I were actually in the ensemble of Thoroughly Modern Millie together, so this is awesome. Casey works at a breakneck speed, and I love it.
You enjoy the notoriously short and intense Encores! rehearsal schedule?
CJ: Oh, yeah. You don't have a lot of time to ruminate, so you have to make quick acting choices, commit to them, and move it along. I've heard some of the first-timers say, "Oh, my God, it's too much!" I say, "Just get on and enjoy the ride."
Your Finian's Rainbow transferred to Broadway, as have Encores! hits like Chicago and Patti LuPone's Gypsy. Do you always go into an Encores! show with hopes of a transfer, or is that a completely unhealthy approach?
CJ: Both of those things are true. [Laughs] I imagine that Encores! always hopes to transfer something if it explodes, and I'd be lying if I said that the cast doesn't think about the possibility of the show being a hit and then getting to be on Broadway. But Damn Yankees didn't end up transferring, so you never know.
The Most Happy Fella was last seen on Broadway in 1992. Is it ripe for another revival?
CJ: Absolutely. People may have heard some of the music, but I always say it's the greatest show that no one really knows. It's glorious. The show is difficult to mount because it's so long — it used to be three acts — but it's also so accessible. It's about how love doesn't always look like you think it's going to.
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