I watched in awe as Jesse Luttrell, handsome as can be, flaunted his fishnet stockings and heels, wearing a tuxedo-type jacket as he danced and sang like a Broadway angel while he performed “Bawdy” at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove late one Sunday. I observed the audience’s laughter as they continued to be entertained through this hour-and-a-half, off-Broadway-type cabaret and burlesque show.
The star, Jesse Luttrell, unlocked his heart with each animated number he performed. Beside the fact that he has Rocky Horror, Cabaret and a host of other theater credits under his belt, he possessed an almost hauntingly, magnanimously contagious smile that would not allow the audience (myself included) to turn away from the stage for even a second.
So Jesse, what exactly is “Bawdy”?
Oh, Jesus. Well, it’s become what it is, “Vaudeville,” and what Vaudeville can be translated into is “the voice of the city” or “voices of the city.” It’s a variety show with some burlesque. It started in 2009. I started it as almost like an open mic kind of thing where people could just get up and do whatever. That was so disastrous that I decided to turn it into my own thing. There are some comedians, drag queens, burlesque, boys and girls…
You’ve done theater in the past?
I’ve done Frankenfurter in Rocky Horror, the MC in Cabaret, both in the same year, two dream roles that happened, one right after the other. Then I said, fuck, I’ve done everything I wanted. That is when I started doing my own shit in the city.
Jesse, you actually produced “Bawdy.”
Yep, everything. I produced it, I do all the arrangements and tracks and the choreography.
You were a professional dancer, correct?
I was. I started as a ballet dancer. I went from this rigid world of ballet and having no social life to doing burlesque. I started late as a ballet dancer, but I had the physical facilities to do it. I got scholarships. I danced with companies, and when I started doing theater I had to fight to have a social life. When you dance with a ballet company you don’t have the time. You’re there from 9 in the morning til 9 at night, and you go home and you’re tired. When I moved to the city I was really shy, and I didn’t go out much.
What kind of childhood did you have?
Well, we moved around a lot. My father was a chef. My dad was a chef at the Walt Disney Hilton in Orlando. I lived in the hotel and the Disney Village for a while. So I grew up a “Disney” kid. I spent most of my time, though, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
What did you plan to be as a child?
I guess I planned everything out. I wanted to move to NYC and be on Broadway. Half of it is true. I didn’t know I’d be doing my own thing and producing myself. I thought I’d be told what to do, you know what I mean? I’d be directed. So I got into that world and started doing that, and I hated it. I fucking hated it. I didn’t like the way people saw me, the way they fit me into whatever little boxes. So I said fuck it and started doing it myself.
What’s your take on love?
I’ve been in a relationship for about two years. We kinda met and right away it was “bam.” But I’ve been in relationships before where I wasn’t even attracted to that person and they worked. It depends on the situation and the chemistry. I think people … I think you’ve just got to let life happen and stuff. “Prince Charming on a horse” – that shit’s not gonna happen.
People are raised thinking that.
Yeah, but it could be the guy in the bell tower with that hump on his back. You never know.
Nope, you don’t, but I do know you have a brand new album out.
Yeah, with Fred Barton. It’s been a good year for me – I’ve had a lot of help from people getting me out of bed and onto the stage, and Fred Barton was very instrumental. Fred orchestrates for the New York Pop and for the Indianapolis Pop. We met in a piano bar years ago, and we liked the same kind of music. We went into the studio, and the album was released in April. It’s on iTunes.
You have an amazing voice.
Thank you. And he does a great job. I like big and loud stuff because I am big and loud.
How tall are you… without heels?
You’re a big boy.
Yeah. When I was doing chorus work, when I first moved here, I was the best dancer, but I was often cut right away because I was tall and lanky. I stuck out too much, which I hated!
Now where do you do Bawdy?
We do it at the Triad, which is called Stage 72. It’s uptown on 72nd Street. They like my show and want to keep me around. They treat us good.
Do you change the show from time to time?
Yeah, especially the past two years. People starting to do cabaret give it up right away cause it’s a pain in the ass to do. It doesn’t make any money – it costs money to do sometimes – but it takes time to develop it. You have to keep plugging at it until it develops. I don’t really do anything else, so I take it seriously. It’s “campy,” but for something to be campy it has to be somewhat sophisticated for it to work. If you think about it, Divine in the John Waters movie – well, there was something sophisticated in it, even though she was eating dog shit. She really took herself seriously as an actress. So when she ate dog shit, it was even more ridiculous.
I did love your show…fishnets and all.
Well, after “Rocky Horror” I figured, I’m showing off those legs.
I loved your Rocky Horror YouTube.
That was the most fun I ever had on stage. After that and being treated so great by the audience, it’s hard to go back to dancing in the chorus line in Oklahoma, you know.
Do you imagine yourself doing television or movies?
I’d do anything for money.
I would. I’m a trained actor, but I like having an audience in front of me. I like the energy.
I know that you are off for the summer. So when do you plan on starting “Bawdy” again?
I’m toying with doing it in the fall. I usually start in January after the holidays, but since we’ve had such a good year and developed an even bigger following, I think it would be dumb of me not to go back in the fall. It will probably be in October. I’m trying to do things out of town also. I’d love to do like a cruise. I think they’d love the show. I love coming out to Fire Island. I also was at “Night of a Thousand Gowns.” Our audience has become mixed in the city, and it was fun on Fire Island having such a gay audience.
What else would you like to tell us?
Buy the goddamn album. And my website is jesseluttrell.com.