By Holli Harms
“Jenn Colella: Out and Proud” is a rock and roll, theatrical pageantry with Colella and her band filling the stage at 54 Below. Filling the stage and filling our hearts with amazing music, story and joy.
Jenn opened the evening with “Knock On Wood,” music and lyrics by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. She actually crashed into the space with it. Moving throughout the audience singing to us, reaching out to us with hands, energy, and voice. And her energy, her voice, which is one powerful extraordinary instrument, filled every corner of the room with the unlimited power to move all to dance and tears.
She was told she is a Rock Soprano, which is accurate in its simple but perfect description. That is all that needs to be said for you to understand her voice, where it comes from, and how it shows itself. Her choice of songs and her small transformations between those songs were part of the intricate story of Jenn coming out in South Carolina 30 years ago when that was not accepted. Coming out and discovering love and its forever promise. I know how traumatic that was, I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. A friend of mine came out to her mother who replied, “I know men can be stupid but don’t go that far.”
This is not some schmaltzy evening of love songs. This is a rockin’ evening of young love, adult love, all-encompassing love, and its messy, clumsy, hilarious confusion.
Jenn continued for a time to try and see if she was really a lesbian by dating and sleeping with men. But eventually realized yes she is card card-carrying lesbian and that men are not for her in romantic terms. She sings in honor of that Ah-hah moment “It’s Raining Men” which became a fantastic metaphor for giving them up as partners for all time. Her rendition of Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” had us screaming, clapping, and cheering. If Sondheim were still with us he would most definitely want to sit down straight away and write a musical for Jenn. Straight away.
“I Can See Clearly Now,” Jenn turns into a spiritual discovery of self and joy.
Her “I Will Survive” was an anthem to all in this country held down and who continue to be held down. A declaration of our strength. And the understanding we are not backing down. We were all standing. Never have I been to a performance at 54 Below where the entire audience was on its feet. We were dancing, swaying, stomping, and clapping! We were out-of-control Jenn Colella fanatics! It was awesome! If we could have done a group hug we would’ve done it.
It was her version of “Joyful Noise” by Shaina Taub that really hit me. A song about the spiritual love of mankind, not the religious divisions, but the love – love that is so unique to us humans. Love that when we share it lifts us.
Jenn has a smile that is part a 5-year-old’s beautiful open love of life coupled with an adult’s conscious giving to all she meets. She is an open-heart and knee-slapping friend you will follow to the end of the earth and back asking her to sing with that out-of-this-world voice the whole way. She lets us in fully to her story and it becomes our story of personal acceptance.
Jenn Colella is the bloody real deal rock musical theater star! She is not to be missed!
Jenn is back upped by Music director and pianist Chris Ranney, Carl Carter on bass, Jessie Linden on Drums, Dillon Condor on guitar, Caitlin Warbelow on violin, Kristy Norter who can clearly play any reed instrument, and backup vocals Ally Bonino and Monica Tulia Rameriz harmonize and rock it out.