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Cheyenne Jackson sings music of the 'Mad Men' era

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary,Television

Cheyenne Jackson may be the only major star of stage, screen and television who has never graced a Kennedy Center stage. That omission is corrected this New Year's Eve, when he makes his debut, paying homage to the music of the 1950s and 1960s. Backed by the National Symphony Orchestra, Jackson will sing some of his favorites from that era -- and perhaps offer a sneak preview of his own songwriting talents.

"I've always felt I was born in the wrong era," he said. "Those decades produced some of America's greatest music. Like my friend Michael Feinstein, I believe it's important to present the music that represents such a distinct period in our history.

"The program is similar to the Carnegie Hall concert I gave last year and is so much fun. Some of my favorite numbers are Brian Setzer's setting of 'Americano,' which comes from an Italian folk song, and 'I Who Have Nothing' because I love the Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey versions for their sheer dramatics. Most people think of me as a tenor, but the arrangement of 'Besame Mucho' lets me show off my low voice."

His Carnegie Hall concert "Music of the 'Mad Men' Era" was the second time he sold out that venue. The first, a year earlier, was "The Power of Two," music from an album by the same name that he recorded with Feinstein.

Onstage
New Year's Eve at the Kennedy Center
Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW
When: 8:30 p.m. Monday
Info: $55 to $150; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

Jackson grew up in a town of only 1,200 residents on the border of Washington and Idaho. Despite the isolation, his mother nourished his musical aptitude by teaching him harmony at age 4. He listened to the folk music of Joan Baez, Judy Collins and their contemporaries and sang in school music classes. But his first exposure to Broadway was a touring production of "Les Miz" in Spokane. The class trip was arranged by the high school music teacher, who first had to procure permission slips from parents agreeing to let their children see a show in which some of the characters were "ladies of the night."

"Watching that show, I was excited to discover that the actors actually made a living that way," he said. "I knew right away that was what I wanted to do, but it took a while to realize my dream. By the time I moved to New York, I was 27, a lot later than most. I've been lucky to have worked constantly since then on Broadway, in film and on television. I love variety and am always looking for opportunities."

Modestly, he says, "I don't say yes to everything, but there are some things you can't refuse. I hope the Kennedy Center audience will be entertained and appreciate my respect for the music I'm singing. My mom and dad are coming to celebrate their 40th anniversary. They've never been to Washington, so this show will be very special for them and for me."

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