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STages

Jackson’s return to P-town finds him in a different place

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

If you’re in Provincetown this weekend, well, yes, that probably is Cheyenne Jackson who is bicycling past you.

The actor and singer says he’ll be pedaling around town when he arrives for four Broadway @ The Art House shows this weekend with pianist and host Seth Rudetsky. They’ve worked together a lot, but this time will be different, Jackson says.

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“This is going to be raw and new,” he says, relaxed and candid on the phone from Los Angeles, which he now calls home. “I’ve been through a rough couple of years. I got divorced, I got sober, I moved across the country, and I have a different story to tell now.”

Rudetsky regularly hosts such conversations with Broadway stars, featuring funny and not-so-funny stories interspersed with songs. The performers “feel it’s a small audience, they can really open up,” says Rudetsky in a separate call from Provincetown.

Life took Jackson from a small town on the Washington-Idaho border to New York in 2002, where he had rapid success on Broadway, starting as an understudy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and moving to leads in “All Shook Up” and “Xanadu.” Tina Fey saw him on stage and cast him on “30 Rock” as Danny, briefly a love interest of her character Liz Lemon, opening up other roles, including one as coach of the arch-rival Vocal Adrenaline chorus on “Glee.” He shot his ninth TV pilot in nine years — “Open” from Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) for HBO — and hopes this time is the charm. And he has several upcoming movie roles.

In recent years he’s turned more and more to cabaret and concert performances, often with Rudetsky as his music director, and recorded an album, 2013’s “I’m Blue, Skies.”

“I’ve been focusing on concerts,” Jackson says, “because I just find it really cathartic and really challenging at the same time to be on stage, whether it’s in front of a 100-piece orchestra or in a smaller venue like [the Art House]. You can’t hide behind a character, it’s just you up there. And considering my life story and the journey I’ve been on, that’s what I want to focus on.”

That journey includes getting sober, a divorce from physicist Monte Lapka, and his planned wedding to actor Jason Landau this September.

“I haven’t worked [in Provincetown] before, and I’ve only been there once. It was for a day and honestly, it’s embarrassing to say but I’ll just say it: I don’t remember a lot because I was really drunk,” Jackson says.

“Jason, my fiancé, and I are going with our two best friends, and I’ll be able to remember it, remember what I did, and we’re getting bikes, and we’re just going to ride everywhere,” he says.

He sounds pretty happy. “Yeah! Yeah! No false modesty, I worked really hard. [But] I can never take anything for granted.”

One thing you can take for granted is that longtime musician, actor, interviewer, and writer Rudetsky will be doing his best to make the show entertaining too. He will do similar shows at the Art House this summer, his fourth there, with Ana Gasteyer, Adam Pascal, and Megan Hilty.

“The show is a lot of the personality of the people as well as their performing, so they reveal a lot of insider scoop and like, feuds or mistakes onstage or horrible auditions,” Rudetsky says. The audience there “is very savvy and artistic, and they like to feel like they’re inside and getting the inside scoop.”

Rudetsky doesn’t want to tip his hand much about what he’ll ask — both men say there’s little or no advance coordination, even of the musical numbers. But Jackson should be prepared to talk about the days when he thought “Broadway” was a single theater in New York. “I was probably 14 or 15,” Jackson says, confirming the anecdote with a laugh.

Rudetsky “is a savant when it comes to musical theater,” Jackson says, “and he loves crazy audition stories and he loves embarrassing things, but he also loves to celebrate positive things in people’s lives and accentuate their voice. He’s been such a friend and fan, I know it’s going to be great. I’m sure I’ll say lots of things that are really embarrassing, the [expletive] that I’ve been through.

“My mom keeps saying, ‘Honey, do you have to talk about being sober and all that?’ And I’m like, yeah, because it’s a huge part of my life now,” Jackson says. “So yeah, I’m going there.”

Connecting to Shakespeare

Actors’ Shakespeare Project will receive a $25,000 grant to support educational programs around its season opener, “The Comedy of Errors,” which runs Sept. 24-Oct. 19 at an as yet undisclosed venue. The grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest will support programs for 350 students and 22 teachers at Boston Day and Evening Academy, Charlestown High School, and two Department of Youth Services classrooms.

The grant will also help fund ASP’s Teacher Institute in August at Salem State University and the work of ASP’s SWAT Team (Shakespeare Weapons and Tactics) with 10 Boston-area schools, and the staging of multiple school matinees and post-performance discussions.

This is the seventh consecutive year the company has received the grant from the Endowment’s Shakespeare in American Communities program. More info: www.actorsshakespeareproject.org.

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.
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