Love and Marriage :: John Abernathy and Savannah Devereaux celebrate love and equality
It is often said in musical theater theory classes that a character bursts into song when the emotion they feel at the moment cannot possibly be expressed in just the spoken word. These emotions can address the political ("Can You Here The People Sing", from Evita), self-esteem ("I Believe In You" from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), or lessons learned ("Home" from the Wiz).
But few other emotions exemplify the need to burst into song more than love. Lost love, found love, true love, false love, unrequited love, obsessed love, romantic love, platonic love, monogamous love, and promiscuous love have all caused a theatrical character in emotional turmoil to turn to song to express how they feel, leaving a plethora of Broadway musical material on the topic for cabaret and concert performers to choose from.
Picking up on that theme, the popular Providence-based cabaret performer, John Abernathy and reigning Miss Gay Rhode Island, Savannah Devereaux, have teamed together for an unusual take on love mining the treasures of love songs from the Broadway Songbook.
With marriage equality taking focus more and more within the LGBT community, Abernathy and Devereaux have taken it one step further and created a new cabaret show, called Love and Marriage, which they will perform at The Hi-Hat @ Davol Square, Providence, RI, on Sunday October 24th. Putting their money where their mouth is, the show will also benefit Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Rhode Island Pride. Abernathy recently spoke with Edge about his unexpected partnership with Devereaux, and their upcoming show.
Teaming with Devereaux
EDGE: How did you come to team with Savannah Devereaux?
Abernathy: I’d heard Savannah sing as Seth [Goulart] at an AIDS Care Ocean State benefit at the Hi Hat, and I actually hadn’t met him, I mean her... this gets tricky... yet. Later on, we became Facebook friends. She’d heard me sing, and she sent me a message, saying John Abernathy, I would really like to sing with you someday. Then we finally did meet at Kitty Litter’s birthday event. I had this idea, something with marriage, and she said, "I want to do it!"
EDGE: Why "Marriage?"
Abernathy: The last two performances of my cabaret show Live Out Loud were for Marriage Equality benefits, so I thought maybe a marriage themed show. So I got together with Savannah and we came up with Love and Marriage, the first act is love and the second act is marriage. You can pull almost anything into the show that way. It’s really broad.
EDGE: With two acts, will there be costume changes?
Abernathy: With a gay man and a drag performer? Absolutely.
Divergent mix of songs
EDGE: Most drag performers lip-synch. Does Savannah lip-synch or sing in her own voice?
Abernathy: In her shows as Savannah, most of the time she lip-synchs, so most people don’t know she sings and will be surprised at how well she sings. We also have the same taste in music, too, which helps. We are both really big show tune fanatics and most of the songs are from shows, even "I Say A Little Prayer," which most people know as a Dionne Warwick pop song, but was recently added to the current revival of Promises, Promises (with Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth).
Savannah and I sang together at the Hi Hat last night with the Providence Gay Men’s Chorus and people already remarked at how well she sang.
EDGE: How have you approached the variety of ways love and marriage are treated in the Broadway Songbook?
Abernathy: We’ve paired some similar songs, like "A Quiet Thing" (Kander and Ebb) paired with "Love is Only Love", an obscure song that is only in the film of Hello Dolly, by Jerry Herman. I also love that song.
Then we do "You’re Just In Love" (Call Me Madam) paired with "Old Fashioned Wedding" (Annie Get Your Gun.) (Two Irving Berlin songs famous for their clever use of counterpoint.) Since she will be singing as Savannah, she’ll be able to do things she otherwise can’t. She’ll sing "Bill" from Showboat, leading into "Wedding Bell Blues." This is her thing, because she had decided years ago she would marry someone named Bill. I thought that was fabulous. She’ll also sing "Adelaide’s Lament."
EDGE: Who will be accompanying you both?
Abernathy: I’ll be at the piano this time, which is the first time in a long time. Now that I’ve performed in front of the piano, I won’t perform solo at the piano anymore, because that’s too static. But with Savannah on stage with me, I can do that. I will be creating all the arrangements, and of course, the accordion and the ukulele will be making an appearance. But I’ve stolen an arrangement, the Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland "Hooray for Love" arrangement.
There will also be audience participation: Singing, noisemaking. We do have one song where the audience will have bells. Do I need to tell you what song that is?
John Abernathy and Savannah Devereaux will perform Love and Marriage at The Hi-Hat @ Davol Square, 3 Davol Square, Providence, RI on Sunday, October 24, 7pm (doors open at 6pm for drinks and dinner). Ticket: 420. For Reservations, call 410.453.6500, or visit www.thehihat.com.