a Wizard of a singer but a reluctant sex symbol
BY DREW ROWSOME
"A lot of the songs are hungry, yearning, reaching out," says Jeremy Jordan of the selections made for The Wizard & I: Broadway Hits. "Those kind of songs feel more organic to me. You can throw yourself in, go 100 percent. I enjoy that, that skyrocket into the stratosphere."
Jordan is a true Broadway baby who already has his first Tony nomination under his belt for the role he originated in Newsies. His work in television's Smash and the film The Last Five Years expanded on his song and dance persona to reveal an engaging leading man. The owner of the prestigious Club 54 Below lauds Jordan's cabaret act Breaking Character's ability to consistently sell every seat in the venue. Jordan's golden pipes, good looks and onstage charm have made selections from Breaking Character into YouTube hits. It has been a meteoric rise.
Known for his powerful performances, Jordan has somehow avoided becoming a divo. His explanation for taking part in The Wizard & I, a concert of Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked) songs with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is charmingly self-effacing, "I got a call from Steven Reineke, the conductor, saying that he would love to have me on board. I hadn't worked with either Steve but, I have been around a bit ..."
Vocally, Jordan's reputation is stellar but he demurs when I remind him that a review referred to his stainless steel pipes. "I'm classically trained but not so good with opera. I have a pretty good handle on how to manipulate my voice to fit whatever genre I find myself in. Maybe I'm not a 10 at rock n' roll or some specific style, but I'm always a solid seven or eight." Most would upgrade him a notch or two.
Jordan's favourite number in The Wizard & I is "Lost in the Wilderness" because "I have a place in my heart for anthemic numbers." When I admit I am not familiar with the song, Jordan is happy to explain, "It's from Children of Eden, a show that flopped before it made it to Broadway. Great score but the show never made it." Asked if he scouts out similar obscure but dazzling gems for his cabaret act he laughs, "I wish I was that nerdy. It already had a cult following."
Though Broadway is home, Jordan will be heading to LA to begin filming a pivotal role in the upcoming series Supergirl. "I must have auditioned for 50 plus pilots and I finally booked one which is an anomaly." Stagework has an emphasis on talent and charisma, film and television has made stars out of those whose talent is their physical appearance. Though possessed of sterling boy-next-door good looks, Jordan says drily, "I think when you walk into the room you can sense that you're not exactly what they've already decided they're looking for."
Jordan loves the intricacy of film work saying,"We're testing my range." While filming The Last Five Years, "We had to scale it down. Get every moment perfect. It's tricky as well, because with television you only get one shot." Not so with the stage. "I love live performing. You're there in the moment, that give and take between the audience and you. You live in the moment when this happened."
Honoured to be part of a Stephen Sondheim/Wynton Marsalis collaboration, A Bed and a Chair, Jordan studied co-star and living legend Bernadette Peters. "She's iconic," he says with awe in his voice. "A very specific voice and sound. The best thing I learned was watching in rehearsal as everyone was testing things out, slowly getting more confident. But from the first moment she was 200 percent. She'd try anything - crazy, wrong or dumb - and put everything into it. That's how you reach icon status."
And Peters also has an old Broadway elegance, a stylish sexuality that is never coarse, a shimmering sensuality that is never pushed. I ask Jordan how he feels about having been on so many internet and magazine lists trumpeting "Broadway's Hottest Men" or "Broadway's Sexiest" or "The Week in Beef." He immediately shouts "Yuck!" and the line goes dead. Our connection had been intermittently interrupted by static and seagulls, "I'm on a boat," but I had also read that Jordan's only conflict during rehearsals (the only negative comments I could find about him from co-workers) had been objecting to a gratuitous nude scene in Bonnie & Clyde, and that he was not enthused about participating in the "Men of Rock of Ages" promotional calendar. I call back.
He answers promptly, "Sorry man. Just to let you know I only have time for one more question." I ask about his charity work: Broadway Bears, where cast members auction off specially created teddy bears in the theme of their shows, and Broadway Barks, where the adoption of homeless dogs is encouraged. "I enjoy events for charity, I try to do as much as I can." When will he do Broadway Bares (where cast members do extravagant, and sometimes raunchy, stripteases raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS)? "I've never done Broadway Bares. I'm way too shy. Thanks man." And the line goes dead again.
An overview of Jordan's career and best beefcake shots, I hope he's amused and proud and not offended, can be found at; drewrowsome.blogspot.ca
Jeremy Jordan performs in The Wizard & I on Tues, June 16 at 8pm, and Wed, June 17 at 2pm and 8pm, at Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. tso.ca