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Cheyenne Jackson: Eyes wide open

If we're lucky, at some point during Cheyenne Jackson's performance in Fort Lauderdale on Valentine's Day, the Tony Award-winning former "30 Rock" star will slide into the heartache of "A Case of You," a smoldering torch from Joni Mitchell's iconic "Blue" album.

While its appearance, if it comes, may be in stark contrast to the rest of the concert, a blissful evening of show tunes and sparkly chatter hosted by gleeful impresario Seth Rudetsky, the song's complicated assessment of love, rejection and dependency feels perfect for a Feb. 14 reading.

Jackson performed the song, inspired by a Diana Krall arrangement, on the 2011 album "Live at Carnegie Hall" (the setting of two sold-out concerts) and reprised it for his Café Carlyle residency last month, filling the storied Manhattan boite with its refrain: "You're in my blood like holy wine/You taste so bitter, and you taste so sweet/Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling, and still be on my feet."

In his review of the opening Café Carlyle set, the New York Times' Stephen Holden said Jackson's "penetrating, wholehearted rendition ... reverberated with sorrowful wisdom."

"It's about letting go. It's about unrequited love," Jackson says. "It's about deciding if you're going to fall into a relationship, deciding if you're going to go all in. Which, really, all of us can relate to."

Jackson, decidedly upbeat on the phone from New York, says he's much wiser about love and life these days. He got married in September to West Coast entrepreneur Jason Landau (it's Jackson's second marriage), whom he met in 2013 while both were being treated for alcohol addiction.

"Being sober has helped informed what I sing, why I sing and so much of my life," says Jackson, who gave the title "Eyes Wide Open" to his shows in the intimate Café Carlyle. "I'm just seeing things so much more clearly. I am seeing my role in this world, my role as an artist, what I want to spend my time doing, what I don't want to spend my time doing. It's really been an awakening."

Including a Joni Mitchell song in his concerts is also a way to acknowledge his parents, the "hippies" [his father is a Vietnam veteran] who raised him in the woods of Washington state. Citing his sobriety, Jackson says his relationship with his parents has never been better.

"I definitely honor my parents in the show, in every show, and Joni Mitchell was my mom's favorite singer," says Jackson, who lists George Michael, Elton John and Billy Joel among his own idols. "There was always Joni Mitchell on in the house. Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins, the three Js. The 'Blue' album, my mom just listened to ad nauseam."

Jackson describes the Parker Playhouse performance with Rudetsky as part concert and part "Inside the Actors Studio" probe of his life.

"It's fun, because I never know what he's going to ask. I never know what the show's going to be," he says. "No two shows are the same, but my shows are very personal. It's the only way I know how to do it. It's the only reason to do it."

This is a big weekend for Jackson: On Sunday, he'll be in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards, where the cast recording of "West Side Story" (Jackson starred as Tony) is nominated in the best musical theater album category.

And opening in several South Florida theaters on Friday is "Six Dance Lessons in Six Days," a Florida-set film about a crusty older woman and her gay dance instructor that co-stars film icon Gena Rowlands. Jackson, who took over the male lead after Sean Hayes pulled out, describes it as "a very sweet, very simple story."

Calling Rowlands, wife of famed director John Cassavetes, a "living legend," Jackson says he got exactly the experience he was hoping for.

"I was struggling with a certain scene," Jackson recalls, "and she told me the story of what her husband told her when they were doing 'A Woman Under the Influence.' He told her, 'That scene was written for you. Quit trying to figure out how to "act" it.' It was about letting go."

Cheyenne Jackson will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., in Fort Lauderdale as part of "Seth Rudetsky's Broadway Concert Series." Tickets cost $46.50-$126.50. Call 954-462-0222 or visit ParkerPlayhouse.org.

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