Review: ‘SMASH’ star and ‘Fiddler’ top weekend attractions

Posted by admin on January 15, 2015

By Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner
October 14, 2014

When it comes to the quality, not to mention quantity of performing arts events available at any given time in Central Indiana, there is no question that local audiences have an embarrassment of riches. That observation was reinforced once again over the weekend when saw Broadway, television and film star Jeremy Jordan Friday at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club and “Fiddler on the Roof” Saturday at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. Herein are reviews of both shows.

“Jeremy Jordan: Breaking Character”

Many of the fans present at Jordan’s Cabaret debut were aware of him due to the exposure he received as a cast member on NBC hit show “SMASH,” his first film “Joyful Noise” and his Broadway credits which include “Newsies,” “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Rock of Ages.” On the other hand, during an informal poll taken by this writer before and during the show’s intermission, there were others present who had never heard of him.

By the end of the evening, however, and based on audience response, all present seemed satisfied with a performance that effectively showcased his Broadway caliber vocals, an undeniable stage presence and boyish personality that endeared him to both fans and those just discovering him.

Jordan, accompanied by his musical director and pianist, Ben Rauhala, sang songs from various shows that he had appeared in along with some originals. Also appearing with Jordan was his wife, actress Ashley Spencer. Peppered throughout his scripted show were stories about the Corpus Christi native’s life and career

“Anthem” from “Chess” was Jordan’s first selection which he sang in character as his 18-year old awkward self, auditioning for college. After his surprising opening number, Jordan explained that “Breaking Character” in the show’s title referred to his desire to break free of playing a character on stage and reveal his true self to the audience, which he admitted was terrifying to him but made possible through the cabaret format.

Jordan’s original tunes included “Good Enough,” about finding his voice as a songwriter; “Revelation;” and “Underwater,” a song about having the whole world in ahead of you when you’re young. Of the three, “Underwater” was the most compelling, but each revealed Jordan’s enormous potential for songwriting.

Also hinting at perhaps an additional career option for Jordan were his romantic duets with his attractive wife, Spencer, who herself possessed a beautiful voice and charisma to match that of her husband’s. Together the couple harmonized superbly in “More Than Words,” “Heaven” and in “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

Jordan’s repertoire showed off his impressive vocal range and the distinctive tone of his pleasant bass/baritone voice, the selections included Jason Robert Brown’s “Moving Too Fast” from “The Last 5 Years,” the film version, in which Jordan co-stars and which will be released on Feb. 15th; “Bonnie,” a ballad from “Bonnie & Clyde” which Jordan sang to a female audience member brought up on stage; and a jazzy upbeat version of “Losing My Mind” from Sondheim’s “Follies.”

Less impressive was Jordan’s lame parody of the song “Purpose,” from “Avenue Q,” renamed “Chipotle,” with its juvenile lyrics centering on bowel movements and a reference to Mexicans this reviewer found particularly offensive. Part of the theme of Jordan’s show and another meaning for “Breaking Character” was taking risks, according to Jordan, who said he struggles with shyness. “Chipotle,” which he intended to perform during an audition and was supposed to represent fearlessness, instead came off as poor judgment.

Jordan’s faux pas, though disappointing, did not totally destroy his credibility. Despite the gaffe, he managed to redeem himself with this writer through his powerful rendition of “Santa Fe.” It’s a song Jordan he did while playing Jack Kelley in “Newsies,” the show that earned him a 2012 Tony nomination for Best Performance as Leading Actor in Musical.

“Finding Neverland” was Jordan’s encore song choice. He sang it in the musical of the same title which had its premiere at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. and which closed Sept. 28 after a two month run.

Jordan allowed himself to be vulnerable as he freely shared his insecurities and his journey towards becoming comfortable in his own skin. As constructed, his show succeeded in portraying a talented 29-year old performer full of promise with a potential for an enduring career. At the same time, it disclosed an individual who is also clearly a work in progress.

Click here to read the full review.


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