Jay Armstrong Johnson is no stranger to cabaret. His annual Hocus Pocus-themed Halloween show (with Johnson appearing in drag as Winifred Sanderson) is a perenial fave. And he's been known to strip down to his underwear a time or two for shows with The Skivvies. We assume, though, the On the Town and Phantom of the Opera alum will be fully-dressed as himself for his upcoming show for Bloomingdale's Studio 59 Best Holiday Ever cabaret series.
Partnering with Broadway Cares, Bloomingdale's American Express exclusive series will run through December at the famous east side flagship department store. Armstrong's December 15 cabaret is the fourth concert in the series of five. Bloomingdale's wraps up the cabaret with Jelani Remy December 22. Previous artists in the series include married couple Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett, Jenn Colella, and Telly Leung.
Playbill asked Armstrong about what audiences can expect from her Bloomingdale's Best Holiday Ever show.
How do you approach building a cabaret show? Do you start with story/songs/themes?
It really depends. Sometimes I start with songs I love and build a theme around them. Other times I start with a theme and find songs within them. For this particular cabaret, I started with a theme.
What can audiences expect from this show?
You might be able to expect a guest pianist/vocalist who is also a Broadway vet. You’ll also hear some holiday classics and some not so classic holiday tunes.
What will audiences learn about you that they didn’t know before?
They’ll learn that I lean towards eclectic tunes. I love all forms of music, and I usually like to show that in the cabarets I perform.
Is there a number in this show that is particularly special to you? Why?
I really love the arrangement of "Never Never Land" I’ll be performing. It was a part of my very first cabaret I ever did at Birdland Jazz Club.
How do you get over the nervousness of telling your personal stories onstage?
It’s really about preparation for me. If I’ve not prepped properly, the nerves can get the best of me.
Tell us about your first memory performing.
My first memory of performing I have would be playing Romeo in a MUCH ABRIDGED version of Romeo and Juliet in the 5th grade. Not many 5th graders wanted to wear white tights and recite Shakespeare in front of an entire school body, but I sure did!
For more details on Bloomingdale's "Best Holiday Ever," visit Bloomingdales.com or on Instagram @Bloomingdales.