Standing O breaks fourth wall with cabaret series

Standing O inaugurated its first cabaret series in April 2009 when Debbie Barber-Eaton offered a show that defined the art form to a sold-out audience. Her show was staged not long after cabaret was brought to Germano's Trattoria in Baltimore's Little Italy, where it has gained popularity.

"We're thrilled to be the trailblazers for cabaret in the Severna Park/Annapolis area," said Standing O founder Ron Giddings. "Although there are many in D.C. and Baltimore cropping up, we are the only place that offers the cabaret experience to locals."

After a cabaret series in mid-June, Standing O offers performers Alicia B. Sweeney and Justin Ritchie on Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17. Laurette Hawkins O'Connell and Barber-Eaton take the stage Aug. 13 and 14.

Barber-Eaton describes cabaret as "an independent art form, not musical theater or a concert. The major thing that sets cabaret apart is breaking the fourth wall [between performer and audience]. The artist doesn't pretend that the audience isn't there, and the goal is to make an emotional connection with the audience."

For Standing O's series, sold-out is starting to be the norm. At Christy Trapp's show "Red High Heels" and Bob Brewer's "Without a Song: The Legend of Golden Throat" in June, all seats were filled at Chesapeake Academy's Black Box Theater.

Through their acting and singing, performers revealed their experiences as they welcomed the audience into their lives. In addition to summoning confidence and enough courage to "present a musical autobiography without hiding behind any stage character," Barber-Eaton says "having a great accompanist, arranger and director" are cabaret essentials.

Trapp — an Annapolis-based singer, wife and mother of three — brought high professionalism acquired at Yale University's Cabaret Conferences and master classes, along with an innate honesty, warmth and wit, to her every song.

She opened with a feisty "Red High Heels," singing:

"Oh, you can watch me walk if you want to, want to. I bet you want me back, now don't you, don't you? I'm about to show you just how missin' me feels, in my red high heels."

Trapp's program included standards such as Rodgers and Hammerstein's "I Enjoy Being a Girl," which moved her story through her single days, to when she met her husband, David, weaving tales of her marriage and her three children.

She remembered her young son in "My Rocking Horse Ran Away," from a 1944 film and originally sung by Betty Hutton to describe a hyperactive toddler's frantic activities.

For her daughter, Trapp sang "In My Daughter's Eyes," which became a mega-hit for singer Martina McBride. Later, Trapp's version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Feeling Groovy" ended her show on a mellow note.

Glen Burnie resident and retired Northrop Grumman engineer Brewer was a 2009 participant in the International Cabaret conference at Yale University.

At Standing O, he filled the room with warmth and charm while offering a smooth baritone that could soar or caress a lyric.

From his bravado opening with Vincent Youman's 1929 classic "Without a Song," he followed with Cole Porter's 1937 romantic ballad "In the Still of the Night" and then the unique 1962 song by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, "What Kind of Fool Am I?"

From classics to the down-home country of "Lovesick Blues," Brewer related his Indiana country-boy origins and his arrival in Maryland, where he performed with the Glen Burnie Jaycees before embarking on a stage career in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County.

"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" expressed his devotion to his wife of 45 years, Christina. Son Christopher, who traveled from his home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to attend his father's show, was rewarded with a heartfelt "Nothing's Gonna Harm You" from "Sweeney Todd." And Brewer revealed a secret when he joined piano accompanist Ron Chiles in a duet of the 1966 Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn tune "How D'ya Talk to a Girl?" — which advises that men need to merely listen, advice that several husbands in the audience (including mine) agreed was essential.

Coming shows

Friday, July 16, and Saturday, July 17, Alicia B. Sweeney will reprise her sold-out show from last season, "It's Not Me, It's You," which relates her ups and downs in searching for Prince Charming.

On the same bill is Justin Ritchie, a Washington performer new to this area.

Aug. 13 and 14 will feature Laurette Hankins O'Connell, who was seen in local musical theater a few years ago and later toured in "Student Prince" and "South Pacific." Now living in Severna Park with her husband, Kevin O'Connell, Laurette serves as a fundraiser for the University of Maryland's School of Nursing. Her show is called "It's the Journey: Life a la Carte."

All shows are at Chesapeake Academy's Black Box Theater on Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard in Arnold. All shows are $15, which includes one drink voucher for beer or wine. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and all shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets: 410-647-8412.