JESSE LUTTRELL Has Homecoming at New York City’s TRIAD THEATER 2/25/23!

Praised by critics and fans alike for his striking appearance and his powerful voice, singer/actor Jesse Luttrell always makes an impression.  He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, but soon found himself singing, dancing, and acting all over the country in musical theater.  The performer always found himself coming back to New York City, which has been his home and creative center for 20 years.  Jesse Luttrell says he just wouldn’t live anywhere else.  Luttrell became a popular performer in his native New York when he was the headliner for BAWDY!, a burlesque/variety show at Manhattan’s Triad Theater.  Luttrell is coming back to The Triad, this time for a one-man show and birthday celebration on February 25 which promises to be the hottest Saturday night in town.  

Jesse Luttrell took the time to speak to Lavender After Dark’s Jed Ryan about his upcoming show, turning 40, his famous show-stopping voice, and why you should “Come to the cabaret!”…

JR: Thank you so much for speaking with me.  Congratulations on your upcoming show at The Triad.  This is also a birthday celebration for you– The Big “Four OH!”  I’ve been celebrating my 40th for about 12 years now…

JL: I’ve been 27 for about 10 years, so I figured I’d turn 40 this year. (Laughs) You get to a point where if you lie about your age, it’s not as impressive as if you tell the truth. When I say I’m 40 now, people are like, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”  If I said I was 27 still, they’d be like, “Oh!… No you’re not!”

JR: (Laughs) Forty can be a hard number to digest…

JL: I think 39 is harder than 40, because you have a whole year to have to get used to the fact that you’re going to be 40.  You’re like, “Fuck! I’m going to be 40 in a year!” But when you actually turn 40, you’re like, “It’s gonna be great!”  It’s the same in any decade: when you’re 29, or 39, or 49… (Laughs)

JR: A lot of people put their birthday “wish lists” on social media.  But what do you get for the guy who has everything already? What would be the perfect birthday gift for Jesse Luttrell?

JL: Coming to my fucking show!  I just want people to show up.  And I think they will, because we’re selling a lot of tickets.  But I was very nervous about doing another solo show in New York because it’s been so long.  I started doing theater again right before the pandemic hit, and that started taking more of my focus. I did my last 54 Below show almost four years ago.  I am not booked to leave and do a musical again until the spring, so I thought I should try to do a solo show.  I was worried that my crowd wouldn’t still be around, or that they wouldn’t show up.  It’s harder and harder to get people to go out now than it was before the pandemic.  I worked at a piano bar, so I was out all the time and people always saw me.  I don’t do that anymore, so I was nervous if people would show up.  Do people remember me? (Laughs) Everybody has ADHD now about who’s doing what…  

JR: Truth! But I had ADHD before everyone else caught it.

JL: It’s a new me and a new kind of show.  I want them to see the new thing… especially because it’s been so long. 

JR: Gotcha!  So… People usually notice two things about you.  The first one is your looks…

JL: (Laughs)

JR: And then, if they even bother to get beyond that and actually listen to your music, they complement you on your voice.  In another interview that you recently gave, someone described your voice as a “heldentenor”.  That sounds like a character from “The Sound of Music”… (Laughs) What does that even mean?

JL: (Laughs) A heldentenor is a Wagnerian tenor: a German opera fach.  It’s a voice type used specifically for dramatic music.  If you imagine the woman with the horns on her head, that’s the kind of music heldentenors sing.  I don’t sing that stuff (Laughs), but that’s what that is!  It’s because my voice is LOUD!  It’s not just loud, it’s big and thick.  I have thick vocal cords. 

JR: Mmmm…!

JL: But as far as the “looks” thing, that’s kind of new to me– and I’m getting used to it.  I had to grow into my face and my nose and my confidence– because I think that ultimately, being confident and knowing what you are is what makes you more attractive, more so than just what you actually look like.  I looked really, really young in my 20’s.  I look back at those pictures and I was like, “I looked like I was 16!”…and these guys who were hooking up with me were like 30.  The age difference wasn’t creepy, but what was creepy was looking back and seeing how young I actually looked.  As I have gotten older, I started filling out and looking more like a guy and not like a kid.  The kind of roles I am getting called in for now are very different from what I was called in for back then.  Now I’m playing stereotypically masculine characters and douchebags. (Laughs) It’s a lot more fun to do those characters than the ones I did in my 20’s… but it’s something I’m still getting used to, in a good way.  I’m enjoying it.  I’m getting used to my masculine side.

JR: Sounds like you’re having a second puberty.

JL: Yes! I was like, “My voice dropped.  So did my balls!” (Laughs)

JR: (Laughs) It’s OK, I’m partial to both!  So… you used to be a regular performer at The Triad.  Am I allowed to use the word “comeback” to describe this new show?

JL: Yeah, I’d say it’s a comeback.  For the gay joke I’ll say, “It’s a RETURN!” (Laughs) But it is a comeback, not just for me but for Fred Barton, my Music Director.  He started Forbidden Broadway at the Triad when it was called Palsson’s.  A lot of other big off-Broadway shows started there.  So, it’s a comeback for him and for me too, because I haven’t done a show there in 10 years.  I did a show there called BAWDY! which was a burlesque revue and variety show.  I did it for six years, and it was my creative outlet and where I learned not only how to perform a nightclub act, but also initially what got me a following.  When you have a show with other acts in it, people would come to see their friends and then by proxy they would get to know me as well.  So that’s kind of how I got started doing solo performances.  Peter Martin, the owner of The Triad, has always been really great to me.  He knows I can do good work and knows I can fill seats.  He also knows that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and that I like to rehearse in the space, so he gives me the opportunity because he trusts me there.  I filmed my music video there a few years ago.  Michael Musto and Dorothy Bishop and all these New York nightlife people were in it.  It’s always been my creative home… Sooooo, it IS a comeback.  A homecoming, really. 

JR: That sounds wonderful.  So, you mentioned burlesque.  Any burlesque artist will tell you that you should never give too much away too soon… You gotta tease the audience.  That said, without giving too much away, can you give me an itty little tease about what to expect the night of the show?

JL: It’s all new!  In the past I have been known for singing a lot of standards and swing music and really old 1940’s stuff… but there’s not going to be a lot of that in this show.  It’s a mixed bag.  There’s some 70’s stuff, and some Elvis, and… well, it really hearkens back to those big star acts of the ’70’s that you would see in Vegas on tour, like the big concert acts.  It’s not really a cabaret show.  I do get personal in it, but it’s really a night of entertainment.  A nightclub act.  It’s not one of those “I moved to New York City with two suitcases and a dream!” kind of thing.  People can expect to have a fun, energetic evening. While we as artists always want to find ways to get personal and ways to get intimate with a crowd, the show is at 9:30 and people have drinks.  So, you have to entertain them! They’re not there to just learn about who you are.  They’re there to have fun.  You gotta give them a show that’s entertaining, and then you slip in some personal stuff here and there, and then slip in some sentiment– just so that when they leave, they feel that they do know you better.  But first and foremost, you have to entertain them.  They’re out and they’re drinking– and it’s hard to get people out in New York as it is.  Give them a fun night!  They’re gonna have one at MY show! (Laughs)

JR: No doubt!

JL: I tend to avoid getting on stage and talking about myself for 90 minutes. I don’t want to tell any artist how to do their acts, but that’s not something I really love. I will say that it worked one time, when I saw Tym Moss’ show and really enjoyed it because he has such an interesting story. We all have our public personas, but we all have our skeletons too. Sometimes it’s interesting to pull them out. I think that in Tym’s case, it was really, really interesting because he has such a great story. But I don’t talk about myself a lot. I try to be as universal as possible. So, I’ll talk about the audience. I like asking them questions and keeping it more about them than about me. I’m this big, loud personality as it is– so if I’m on that stage talking about myself, they are kind of lost in the mix. I do tell my story, but subliminally. My story comes out in my singing. Judy Garland wouldn’t stand up on stage and talk about all of the tragedies. Everybody else talked about all of her tragedies! But you would see them in her singing. You would see her heart and her frustration in her songs. And I think that is more of how I approach things. I have to have an experience while I am singing a song, yet involve the audience in that experience!

JR: You mentioned that Fred Barton is your Musical Director.  I remember very vividly seeing his show Miss Gulch Returns at a club named Dillon’s which sadly no longer exists.  This was in January 2004, so if my math is correct, you would have been 19 at the time. Too young to hit the bars, ha ha! But it was snowing, snowing, snowing that night! Just the name of that show– “Miss Gulch Returns”– was too delicious to resist, and the CD is still one of my favorite soundtracks of all time.  How did you and Fred start working together?

JL: Fred met me at Marie’s Crisis when I was working there.  He was down there because Rose’s Turn was closing– Rose’s Turn used to be The Duplex– and he popped into Marie’s, and I was singing Swanee at the top of my lungs. It’s very interesting, because our tastes in music are similar in some respects and not so similar in others– but we both have the same “We want to stop the show!” kind of personality.  What made me interested in Fred was that I always loved Bob Fosse.  With everything Fosse touched there was always this sardonic wit and dark sense of humor.  Fred really has that. If you remember, Miss Gulch was not this happy fun thing.  It was hilariously witty and sardonic.  You don’t see a lot of that now because people aren’t really in tune with sarcasm and dark humor as much as they were in the 90’s.  But I loved that.  And I also feel that Kander and Ebb’s music really worked with Bob Fosse, because there was something dark and witty about everything they did too. In both the music and in Ebb’s lyrics, there was always a wink and a nod at something.  And Fred is really good at that.  He worked with Kander and Ebb on the first revival of Cabaret with Joel Grey, so he has that musical legacy.  He’s also worked with Cy Coleman on City of Angels.  I really wanted to work with him, because that’s the kind of energy I want running underneath what I’m doing.

JR: Understood!  So, before we sign off: Besides telling everyone to buy their ticket for your show, anything else you wanna tell the masses?

JL: Tell their asses?!

JR: (Laughs) Well, you can tell their asses if you want, but I said “tell the MASSES!…” 

JL: (Laughs) What would I tell them? Recently I’ve had the experience of going to other people’s shows more often, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.  Much more fun than going to a bar.  I remember when I was at the height of my party days, I wouldn’t go to other people’s shows.  I would just go sit at a bar for four or five hours and drink… and have the same conversations over and over again with the same people.  It was drinking for the sake of drinking.  Going out, and going to a show, is a luxury that people don’t have anywhere else.  All these different performers doing different things all in the same night.  People need to take those opportunities– because, if you allow yourself to do it, you’re going to make more meaningful connections, you’re going to be entertained, and you’re going to be moved.  It’s good for your mind and for your soul, and it’s better than just sitting at a bar for five hours and hoping you’re gonna meet someone, or just drinking for the sake of drinking.  Get out!  Come to the cabaret!

JR: That would make a good song!

JL: I wasted so many years sitting at the bar drinking for the sake of drinking and being like, “Well, I’m out!”  But I wasn’t.  I was just sitting in the corner of a bar with the same people saying the same shit, hobbling home drunk, and not being able to wake up the next day.  That’s not going out.  That’s not fun.

JR: Not to mention all those dead brain cells that we can never get back…

JL: I didn’t need ’em anyway! (Laughs)

JR: (Laughs) Same here! With that, I want to thank you for speaking with me! See you at The Triad!

Jesse Luttrell is performing at The Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street, New York City on Saturday, February 25 at 9:30PM.  For tickets, visit Jesse Luttrell, New York, NY – InstantSeats  Also visit Jesse’s official website at

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