Is Gay Dating Over at 30? Singer Francis Garner Thinks So in New Show
John Amodeo READ TIME: 6 MIN.
"Whenever I introduce myself to someone new, I'm all demure and self-effacing," admits emerging cabaret performer Francis Garner. "But once I get to know you, I'm all piss and vinegar." While some may find this an endearing trait, others, well, may not. And therein lies the conundrum facing this handsome talented yet single thirtysomething, one that he is eager to share with you through story, song and humor in his upcoming cabaret show "Over the Hill: Gay Dating Over 30" Tuesday, September 19, at the Club Café's Napoleon Room.
Classically trained, with a degree from Manhattan School of Music majoring in Vocal Performance, Garner, who intended to pursue a career in opera, put performing on pause for several years to accommodate other pursuits. But when he recently started singing again, he found that he was interested in exploring a broader range of singing styles from pop, to jazz, to American Songbook and Broadway. He began coming to open mics at the Club Café's Napoleon Room, then participated in CabaretFest events in Provincetown this year and last year, taking workshops and master classes in cabaret to feel more grounded in these new musical genres. Last January, he made his cabaret debut at the Club Café's Napoleon Room with "Am I Doing it Right?" Garner quips, "It was a cabaret show about doing a cabaret show. It was a nice start, but I made fairly safe choices."
His new show, however, is anything but safe, where wild stories, mixed with surprising song choices will be a sharp but welcome departure from his debut. Edge spoke with Garner, a Cape Cod native now living in Wareham, about his cabaret show's unexpected stories and songs, his unexpected hobbies, and why dating is so hard.
EDGE: Are the issues of dating after 30 different for gay men than straight men, straight women or lesbians?
Francis Garner: It's hard to say in practice, whether those differences are real or imagined. One of the lines in my show is that when it comes to dating, the age of 30 is "gay death." I think dating is difficult for everybody. Everyone has an idea of what they want, and that is often different than what is available in the universe. The only real difference is the numbers game. There are fewer homosexuals in the world, so there are fewer outlets in which gay men can pursue romance, rather than the more organic opportunities available to straight men and women. But I don't know if that really changes things. All I can do is relay my own experience.
EDGE: Your upcoming show at Club Café traces the trials for gay dating after 30. Is this autobiographical?
Francis Garner: Absolutely! It's basically a collection of condensed stories, nightmares I should say, about the past 3 years of me getting out there and dating. And there are some whoppers. I'm straddling the line of what I think I can share and what I'm comfortable sharing, hopefully to great comedic effect. I'm excited and apprehensive at the same time, which is the story of being a performer.
EDGE: How will this theme show up in your song list?
Francis Garner: I've chosen a bunch of songs that I don't think many people will know. I've got a bit of an odd taste in music that I listen to. The opening couple of numbers will be unknown. A lot of my music is on the bluesier side, which is what I enjoy singing, though my voice doesn't have a natural affinity for it. And given the theme, the darker bluesier shades seem to fit. One of the songs is in Portuguese, which fits into the greater story line of the show. There is a surprisingly smaller number of songs in the show than what is typical for shows in the Napoleon Room, favoring more spoken dialogue, a choice I made very consciously, and I hope I can deliver.
EDGE: Having seen you perform several times; you seem to be a balladeer. Do you ever vary that?
Francis Garner: I try to, for no other reason than you can't structure an entire show around ballads. In this show, I have a few up-tempo numbers that are stark departures from the other songs in the show. I've even written new lyrics to one, that took me way too long to think up, and I performed it at a few open mics that went over well.
EDGE: Did you grow up in a musical household?
Francis Garner: Yes and no. My extended family on my father's side has a bit more of a performer streak to it. My great aunt, Alanna Manning, she's in her 80s now, has been a jazz singer and hit the circuit in Boston and Washington, DC. My mother's sister was a music teacher in upstate NY. My father played the guitar, and listened to the Beatles in the car, much to my chagrin. I took a complete left turn, and pursued classical music and trained in opera, before life got in the way, and I stopped performing for a while. In some senses, I come from a musical background and in others, I pretty much arrived where I am on my own.
EDGE: What music do you listen to when you aren't thinking about putting on a show?
Francis Garner: It's funny, because only in the last 5-6 years have I allowed myself to stop being such a snob and not only listen to opera. I have music for different kinds of moods. I'm obsessed with 90s divas. Celine Dion. Her voice is second to none, and such longevity. Brandi Carlile, I started listening to her for the past 15 years. It's so at odds with my general personality to be so obsessed with such a popular singer. She's got me through some tough times, that one. There are other artists, like Little Nas X. I don't listen to hip hop, but I respect him and when he comes on the radio, I don't change it. It's my guilty pleasure.
EDGE: What other pass times do you have outside of singing?
Francis Garner: I bought a motorcycle at the beginning of summer, which surprises most people. I love being by the water, so I ride my bike around the Cape along the beaches. I spend too much time playing stupid games on my phone. The wholesome answer is I live near my mother and my three sisters, so we spend a lot of time together. I'm the only boy and the last to be single, circling back to that topic.
What:: Cabaret singer Francis Garner performing "Over the Hill: Gay Dating Over 30"
Where: Napoleon Room, Club Café, 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA
When: September 19, 2023
More information: At this link.
Listen to Francis Garner sing "Old Cape Cod":
John Amodeo is a free lance writer living in the Boston streetcar suburb of Dorchester with his husband of 23 years. He has covered cabaret for Bay Windows and Theatermania.com, and is the Boston correspondent for Cabaret Scenes Magazine.