Filmed at Feinstein’s/54 Below
Fasten your seatbelts. This is more a theater piece than a cabaret show. It’s joyful, poignant, heartbreaking, and very personal. The birth of Jeremy Jordan’s two year-old daughter Clara to whom the piece is dedicated, “triggered some interesting things, memories from my past…All I want to do is to give her a perfect childhood and life…” Objects drawn from a suitcase represent pre-Clara turning points, recollections that take up space now reserved for his here, conjured daughter to whom he speaks with palpable love.
The artist’s own “Carry On” – “I Carry on, until I can carry no more” is a gently seared country song for the times, an ode to will over circumstances and building resolution. Jordan’s flexible tenor is invested. “Hey, kiddo, you coming to see what daddy’s doing?” he addresses invisible Clara. “High five.” Jordan continues with four childhood memories.
“Wake Me Up” (Tim Bergling/Aloe Blacc/Michael Einziger) is pop with country inflection that emerges with almost anything neither character specific nor rock. “I tried carrying the weight of the world/But I only have two hands…So wake me up when it’s over/When I’m wiser and I’m older…” is prologue to a turbulent childhood. An Audience Choice Award for the musical Newsies in which he starred at 18, leads into “Broadway Here I Come!” (Joe Iconis from Smash) eliciting the idea Jordan knew what he wanted early on. His choice reflects the songwriter’s iconoclastic approach to ambition. Intonation creates an arc all but absent in words. “Do you want to help daddy finish packing?”
A third memory is excavated between phrases of “When You Say Nothing at All”(Don Schlitz/Paul Overstreet). Jordan’s parents divorced. His father’s new wife Shelley loved Alison Krause who popularized the song. Little Jeremy loved her. The very prettily sung ballad lands in counterpoint to his story of an horrific vehicle crash involving his father, younger brother, Shelley, and himself. Jordon writes (and acts) with lucid specificity. The incident is painful and shocking.
“The Middle” (James Adkins/Thomas D. Linton/Richard Burch/Zachary Lind) takes us through the artist’s first girlfriend, first kiss, and first heartbreak. This one’s head-bobbing, foot-tapping rock and roll – as befits high school. Monologue continues cogent, music is declaratory. Then, the understatement, “mom married someone not so nice.” Jordon’s new stepfather was a drug addict who drew his mom into the fold. There’s an alarming revelation in this chapter. “Sante Fe” (Jack Feldman/Alan Menken from Newsies) longs for another, better place. Expression is visceral, dynamic, but not overly dramatic. “Clare, you’ll grow up in a home with love and respect.”
“Princess Jeremy Medley,” apparently a palate cleanser, combines excerpts from six Walt Disney princess films. Jordan knows these will be a part of Clara’s life and readies himself. His vocals lend themselves to collective tone. “Ok, kiddo, daddy has to get ready,” prefaces Billy Joel’s “Lullaby” which is straight up lovely. “I told myself I was never gonna do one of these personal shows….” Jordan thought this would be an exorcism, but instead discovered walls behind walls he has yet to scale.
I admit to not understanding the last medley which contains extremely short segments of songs with seemingly no attempt to transition. It feels tacked on. Overall effect is careening downhill with hands off the handlebars. Jordon closes with another of his own compositions, “Flesh and Bone.” “I once was mighty, but now I can’t be caught in the rain (great lyric)/I can’t let you know that I’m just flesh and bone…” he sings to his first born. “My heart has just spilled out of my chest since you were born.” Before the credits, we see baby pictures. She’s a beauty.
Except for the “Finishing the Show Medley” described above and a faux break when Jordan ostensibly gets overwrought, the presentation is smooth, vivid, original, and finely wrought.
Photos by Jenny Anderson
Jeremy Jordon: Carry On
Written and Directed by Jeremy Jordan
Benjamin Rauhala- Musical Direction/Arrangements/Piano
Use of Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf’s superb Cello is inspired in these arrangements.
Shannon Ford-Percussion, Alan Stevens Hewitt-Electric Bass, David Cinquegrana- Acoustic & Electric Guitar, Ginna Le Vine-Background Vocals, Josh Tolle-Background Vocals
Premieres May 6 at 8 p.m. ET.
On Demand May 7 – June 17 at www.54Below.com/Jeremy