BWW Review: Jeffrey Scott Parsons Makes LA Solo Cabaret Debut with COMFY
Triple threat performer Jeffrey Scott Parsons made his LA Solo Cabaret debut Monday January 22 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal with a sold out house. The show was entitled Comfy and took us back through the years beginning with a six-year old Parsons in Utah - yes, he was a farmboy and ... a Mormon, still is - who hated uncomfortable shirts and pants, calling them "frickly", but had an early passion for sequins. We were treated to a home movie of his performance of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" with his older sister and brother, two younger sisters scrambling around and his mother at the piano, referring to them all as the Mormon Von Trapp family. Indeed, this lad has a sense of humor and made an otherwise seriously reflective evening exceedingly enjoyable to watch, as he burst into tap at regular intervals.
Being a Mormon and gay is uncomfortable; it's a no, no. You can't be a member of that religion and practice homosexuality, without much pain and suffering. Remember Del Shores' explicit play Southern Baptist Sissies? Yet, when Parsons came to LA to enter a theatrical world, he found himself once again uncomfortable, surrounded by a community of open-minded individuals who referred to religion as spirituality. Would he be able to fit in comfortably? (Musically a terribly amusing "Disney Medley" accompanies this segment.) Well, as time went on, he by all appearances did and is now considered one of LA theatre's top leading men, who can sing, dance and act the bejesus out of any musical theatre role. But underneath, it's been an emotionally difficult road, adjusting to both the theatre world and to the Mormon Church, to which, by choice, he still belongs. He alluded to the similarities of people dressing up in the theatre with those dressing up on Sunday to honor God. Confused in both worlds and not being able to live in one without the other, he made his choice to have it all. Salvation, he claims, is personal, yet it is difficult to do it alone. He, like everyone, needs a community around him. I am usually less pleased with too much talk during a cabaret. I like a happy balance. But...Parsons is so sincere, so sweet and lovable, that he made the hour+ gig totally mesmerizing in a meaningful way.
Musical highlights of the evening, with stellar musical director Richard Allen at the piano, included: his dapper opening "Shall We Dance?" along with "Get Happy"; a delightful "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello Dolly! where he professed his love for the film and Barbra Streisand; a fun "Moses Supposes" from Singin' In the Rain - he tapped with Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly projected on the screen behind him; "I Can Do That" reminiscing about learning how to have sex with a man, never without guilt - "Was it rape?" Closing the evening was a lovely "With So Little To Be Sure Of" in tandem with "In Whatever Time We Have". Parsons made several costume changes from tux to shirt, tie and sweater to sport shirt and sweat jacket, progressing nicely from very uncomfortable to comfy.
I have to give a special paragraph to the Book of Mormon segment, which was comedically brilliant. First, Parsons compared Mormons viewing the show and trying to accept their onstage image to actual orphans watching Annie. As he sang "Hello!", he switched to Spanish "Hola!" and told a terribly funny anecdote about jumping into a car in a dark alley with Latino dudes smoking pot. If you know Book of Mormon the missionaries meet many crazy situations head on in order to convert followers; it's all part of entering a different world and adapting to it. The Latinos shared their pot with him and treated him ... well, like an amigo. A delicious scenario!
Jeffrey Scott Parsons is a marvelous song and dance man. Making his Mormon background a part of his show Comfy is ultimately brave, but, as I mentioned, he is open and honest on and off stage. And that can only lead to more great things. Don't miss him wherever he appears!
(performance photo credit: Kate Romero)