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[14 to Watch in 2014]

Chris ‘CJ’ Jhureea, Creative Whirlwind

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CJ” Jhureea moved to “Oz” to play in The Beatles Love, then quit to follow his own creative impulses.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

It’s impossible to know where “CJ” Jhureea will be at this time next year. Impossible because none of us really knows where the next 365 days will take us, and impossible because Jhureea’s life is in a particularly fascinating state of flux. As a musician once sang, his future is wide open.

CJ Jhureea showed his work at the Art Odyssey at Life Is Beautiful.

Until this past fall, his world was largely dictated by the rise and fall of the house lights at the Beatles Love Theatre inside the Mirage, where he played the show’s Walrus character. The small-town Australia dancer and entertainer hadn’t done many auditions when he saw a Cirque du Soleil flier and decided to give it a shot. He was as surprised as anyone when he got the part at age 22. “I didn’t know what was going to happen with my life. It was like hitting the lotto.”

What happened was a move to Vegas—“Oz,” he says—rehearsals, training and an opening-night adrenaline rush that he says felt like skydiving. What also happened were injuries, a blown right knee that took months to heal and a growing frustration with the grueling Cirque schedule. While rehabbing, Jhureea started drawing and writing poetry, eventually staging a tiny art show inside Emergency Arts that caught the eye of Life Is Beautiful founder Rehan Choudhry. When LIB debuted in October, Jhureea was there, manning the smallest of the Art Odyssey’s pocket galleries and showing his work more or less for the first time.

He says the decision to quit Love was a hard one, but he practically glows while flipping through his sketchbook, showing off simple, sweet drawings of hearts and balloons and talking about putting together a larger art show soon. He’s modeling for extra cash—perhaps you’ve seen his chiseled face on the Cosmopolitan billboard by the airport—and he’s committed to staying in Vegas and seeing what works out for the kid who’s already had so much work out. “My flight’s already gone,” Jhureea says, smiling. “There’s a lot to be done here, and there’s a lot I can add.”

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