When your back-up plan involves sequins

Back in 1999 or so, Mrs. Sweeny said to her son, “I think you’re a terrific actor, but you really need to develop something to fall back on.”

“I thought, maybe I’ll be a lounge singer,” recalls David Sweeny. “That’s really all I could come up with.”

And soon Johnny Showcase was born: an uber-emotive, slightly oblivious, lounge-singing alter ego.

Probably not what his mother had in mind, but 10 years later, Sweeny is a full-time performer who splits his days between acting and Johnny-ing.

“As an actor, I have to go around and ask, ‘Can I be seen for three minutes, so I can show you that I can be an artist with you?’ I got really frustrated with that,” says Sweeny, looking decidedly un-Johnnyish while sitting in Old City Coffee. “So Johnny has been an incredible liberation for me. It’s my thing, and I can decide what to do with it.”

Showcase got his break in 2006, regularly opening for cabaret act Jeffrey Marsh at World Cafe Live. Since then, he’s slowly developed his own coterie of followers, culminating in last year’s Philly Fringe hit, “Purr, Pull, Reign.”

This weekend marks Johnny Showcase’s return, and Sweeny promises a narrative twist to the performance, as Johnny is confronted by some of the many, many loves of his life.

“Narrative and drama always seem to come out of what we do,” explains Sweeny. “Every member of the band has a persona — a character. There are these opposing forces, and I encourage it, because I like to surprise the audience.”

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