This past Saturday night Miss L and I paid a visit to the 14 Karat Cabaret Club in downtown Baltimore. If you've never been there before, it's bar/performance space hidden away in the basement of Maryland Art Place, a non-profit organization that supports artists living and working in Maryland. The bar is dark, with brick walls decorated with paintings, sculptures and photographs by local artists.
The evening started with a very odd animated short film entitled Asparagus. Made in 1979, the animation style is kind of Disney meets Surrealism. Much of the "action" takes place inside a woman's home, with shrinking houses and fields of giant asparagus rolling by the window. Metamorphosis, games with perspective, and a few other light touches make it a pretty accomplished film both in concept and delivery. And the loads of overt sexual and scatological imagery make it very funny, and definitely not your kid's cartoon.
Next the host came out stuffed into a spacesuit. The spacesuit boots were strapped to large cement blocks, so when she walked it imitated a space walk quite nicely. Abstract electronic music played in the background and, as she floated in outer space, she recited most of the lines of Hal the computer from the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (coincidentally, my favorite movie of all time).
Next in the line-up was Esmirelda, a DC-based singer/songwriter. Donning a 50's style dress and her hair tucked up into a short beehive, her appearance matched her songs quite nicely. Playing an electric-acoustic guitar, she punched out songs with melodies influenced by Buddy Holly and 50's Doo Wop music. But Esmirelda is not a cover artist or a tribute performer. Her songs are all her own, with topics ranging from pre-operative transexuals, yeast infections, and being the kind of woman she wants to be with or without your approval. I've never heard of her, but she's obviously a seasoned performer, knowing how to work in some banter to connect with the crowd. Smart, slightly genre-bending and pretty damn funny.
The main event, and the prime reason we attended, was Little Orphan Fannie: A Whorehouse Musical. Put together by Wire Hanger Productions, the same team of writers and performers who brought Baltimore the musical version of Mommie Dearest, Fannie is a bawdy retelling of the classic Annie story. As is obvious from the title, the story takes place not in an orphanage but a whore house run by a transvestite named Madam Mannigan. The girls may indeed be orphans, but they are also prostitutes who both enjoy and hate what they do. Fannie is a prostitute with big dreams of finding a john to take her away from the nasty life of the whorehouse and thinks she may have found her man when Daddy Fourbucks, a man searching for a good time on his 21st birthday, walks into Madam. Trouble, and hilarity, ensues when it becomes obvious that Daddy Fourbucks is more of a man's man than the lady's man he's trying to be. Little side moments include a parody of the Vagina Monologues (one of the girls has one that predicts the future), simulated puppet sex and a husband and wife team trying to involve Madam Mannigan's in their scheme to become porn film moguls. A couple of the songs are a little rough, but by and large it's a fun and very dirty sendup of a classic just looking to be made fun of.
Originally billed as a one-time performance, the event was popular enough that a number of people got turned away at the door. If you're interested at all, they announced tentative plans to hold the performance again on Friday, December 16. Doors open at 9:00. Keep an eye on the Club's website for updates, and go early so you don't get turned away.
Hebdomeros Update: 12..08.05
The second performance is now confirmed for Saturday, December 17. So don't go on the 16th. They won't be there. But go early....tickets will probably sell quickly again.