Jenn Colella: Out and Proud

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Jenn Colella

Out and Proud

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, June 30, 2023

Reviewed by Steve Murray

Jenn Colella

It seemed like a joyous homecoming for Jenn Colella at Feinstein’s at the Nikko, as she reveled in the love she received from a predominantly gay audience. Last seen in a cabaret setting here in 2019, Colella is freshly married and positively giddy in her new position as an “owl”—a wise lesbian. Her new show, Out and Proud, chronicles her early love for music, her childhood in the South, and her coming out in NYC and finding her tribe.

Her arrangement of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” was slow and thoughtful; the hopeful lyrics expressed her newfound freedom of self. In response to agents telling her never to come out because it would ruin her career, Colella sang Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t,” a defiant, in-your-face, satirical take on conformity. When she was invited to perform in a Lerner & Loewe tribute, Jenna asked the PBS producers if she could transpose a pronoun and they shockingly agreed. Thus, “I Could’ve Danced All Night” became an exhilarating same-sex number. It may seem a small gesture, but it was a revolutionary and profound way to take ownership of the song.

A couple of crowd-favorite singalongs—Whitney Houston’s popular “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” (George Merrill/Shannon Rubicam) and The Weather Girls’ hit “It’s Raining Men” (Paul Shaffer/Paul Jabara)—highlighted Colella’s connection with her audience and her ability to forge an emotionally endearing link. Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” was the song she sang to her beloved when she popped the big question, and her performance made for a lovely moment.

Having played the role of Peter Pan many times, Colella chose “Never Never Land” (Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green) as her eleven-o’clock number. She then ripped into a rock-like version of Janis Joplin’s hit “Piece of My Heart” (Bert Berns/Jerry Ragovy). Another tender moment was her cover of Ani DiFranco’s “Angry Anymore,” a song of forgiveness for parental squabbling.

Colella is now out and proud, enjoying her moments of success and peace. Her encore of the Otis Redding hit “Hard to Handle” (Allen Jones/Alvertis Bell/Otis Redding) was brash and confident, just like Colella’s voice. A fitting quote from Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” summed up Colella’s journey:Lady you’re doing just fine/make just a ripple/come on be brave/this time a ripple/next time a wave.” Jenn Colella is certainly making those waves.

Steve Murray

Always interested in the arts, Steve was encouraged to begin producing and, in 1998, staged four, one-man vehicles starring San Francisco's most gifted performers. In 1999, he began the Viva Variety series, a live stage show with a threefold mission to highlight, support, and encourage gay and gay-friendly art in all the performance forms, to entertain and document the shows, and to contribute to the community by donating proceeds to local non-profits. The shows utilized the old variety show style popularized by his childhood idol Ed Sullivan. He’s produced over 150 successful shows, including parodies of Bette Davis’s gothic melodramedy Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and Joan Crawford’s very awful Trog. He joined Cabaret Scenes 2007 and enjoys the writing and relationships he’s built with very talented performers.