John Abernathy sings (and lives) out loud

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 8, 2009

Singer/actor John Abernathy is back with a new CD, Live Out Loud!, a live recording of his cabaret show recorded at the Hi-Hat in Providence in 2007.

The disc - Abernathy's second -- contains songs by such Broadway luminaries Kander and Ebb ("Sometimes a Day Goes By" from Woman of the Year), Stephen Sondheim ("Loving You" from Passion), and Elton John and Tim Rice ("Hakuna Matata" from The Lion King).

And, by the way, the songwriters are all openly gay, which is part of the concept for Abernathy's autobiographical show.

On Saturday October 11 Providence audiences will have the opportunity to hear the hunky baritone sings selections from the CD at Mirabar as part of a benefit for Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI). The event also coincides with National Coming Out Day.

A nice fit

Abernathy sees that his choosing songs written by openly gay songwriters is a nice fit for the benefit.

"MERI asked me (to perform)," Abernathy told EDGE. "It seemed like the perfect choice."

Abernathy notes the songs on the CD are contemporary, such as "If You Were Gay" from Avenue Q, and "What More Can I Say" from Falsettos.

"There’s a gay theme in everything," Abernathy said.

Live Out Loud! is an autobiographical show, featuring not only songs but dialogue relating to Abernathy’s life. He discusses sex, dating, his parents, and other subjects during the show.

In reviewing the show for this publication cabaret critic John Amodeo wrote: "This very entertaining two-act show cobbles together songs written by openly gay songwriters in musical theater, cabaret, folk and pop, This eclectic mix holds together well due in no small measure to Jim Rice’s excellent piano accompaniment and arrangements, Ida Zecco’s well-paced direction, and especially Abernathy’s charm, winning presence, smooth vocals, and honest heartfelt deliveries of well-chosen material. On stage, Abernathy was poised, quietly confident, playful, and as sweet as Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie."

On the CD there is a bonus track, "My Smoky Mountain Christmas", was written by Abernathy. The song was inspired by his childhood life in Tennessee.

"Everyone in my family was musical," Abernathy said, noting his mother played the piano and his father played the clarinet. Abernathy remembers singing in school talent shows when he was 5 years old.

Abernathy has appeared in numerous stage productions, including Little Shop of Horrors, Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, and Oklahoma.

Abernathy also toured internationally with Up With People and has performed several cabaret shows over the years.

Abernathy enjoyed touring with Up With People. The group visited 35 states and 6 countries. They visited hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up patients with their music.

In 2005, Abernathy released a CD, Look Straight Ahead, featuring Broadway songs and standards, such as A Cock-Eyed Optimist, I Can See Clearly Now, and The Second Time Around.

Abernathy also appeared with legendary composer Jerry Herman at the 16th Annual New York Cabaret Convention at Lincoln Center. The event paid tribute to Herman’s work. Abernathy shared the stage with legendary performers Lee Roy Reams, Michael Feinstein, Marilyn and Maye. He also received a nomination for Best Male Cabaret Performer from the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) for his show A Cock-Eyed Optimist in Boston.

"That was very exciting," Abernathy said of the event.

Singing isn’t a full-time profession for Abernathy, who works for CVS in Woonsocket.

"I do it when I want to, and I enjoy it when I do," Abernathy noted.

Abernathy has a large and loyal following, and looks forward to entertaining audiences for many more years to come.

"They have fun," Abernathy said of the people who attend his shows. "That’s what it’s all about."

Live Out Loud! is available for purchase at his Abernathy’s web site.

He performs on Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
The Mirabar, Providence, RI.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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