For Philly actor, ‘Johnny Showcase’ is a soul train back to the ’70s

    If you’ve never seen Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret before, you might wonder: Is this serious?

    “It is always playing this line,” says backup singer Adrienne Mackey. “Is he [Johnny] the most sexy human being in the world? At first glance, no. But then there is that moment where you’re like, maybe he is. Maybe yes.”

    Johnny Showcase, a greasy-haired, pelvic-thrusting crooner from North Providence, Rhode Island, sprang from the brain of Philadelphia actor David Sweeny.

    Sweeny created the ’70s soul frontman while hanging out with friends in the early morning hours as a college undergrad — and in response to his parents’ suggestion that he have a “plan B” to becoming a successful actor.

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    After five years of performing in Philly, including a full-scale stage show of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” the cabaret has become an eight-piece ensemble, adding characters and playful theatrics along the way.

    “It is everything that makes me joyful and makes we wanna laugh and sing and make other people happy,” says Sweeny.

    With catchy lyrics spiced with sexual innuendo and familiar rhythm and blues, the cabaret does indeed make audiences laugh just as much as it inspires them to dance and hum along.

    But the cabaret is not just about big hair, belt buckles, and high-boot kicks; the group composes and performs their own songs.

    “If the music isn’t real … then the shtick isn’t going to carry over, it is going to be just shtick,” says keyboardist Noam Szwergold.

    To Sweeny, the music is just as important as the act, costumes, and theatrics.

    With “Johnny Showcase” as an alter ego, Sweeny can perform the funk and soul music he’s always loved without adopting his counterpart’s show-biz attitude — or “Brady Bunch” wardrobe.

    You can see Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret perform with the West Philadelphia Orchestra Thursday, May 2, at Underground Arts, and Thursday, May 16, at the Fairmount Night Market.

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