"Wilkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!"
March is Cabaret Month in Boston, with no fewer than 18 local performers and two cabaret legends featured as part of the festivities this year. And all the activity seems fitting--membership in the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists (BACA) is at an all-time high, and more and more people are creating shows.
But why would someone put themselves out there, figuratively naked, usually with only a pianist to give them moral and musical support, while attempting to hold the audience in their thrall (what is a thrall?) for 60 or 90 minutes? The answers are as diverse and interesting as the performers themselves. John O'Neil--pianist, vocalist, producer, vocal coach, and one of the Boston area's most colorful performers--had a variety of thoughts on the subject. "I always like to say cabaret is a little music, a little theatre and a little reality, but mostly it's about sharing ourselves," O'Neil says. "And in sharing also comes risk. The performer should be prepared to strip down emotionally to that part which is common to all of us. When the audience members recognize something of themselves (or their lives) in your work, you've got it. Why do I perform cabaret? Because I think it is the ultimate striptease."
This year, as part of Cabaret Month, O'Neil is not only producing his own show, Camp Songs, but he is also the impresario behind At Last Productions, which is currently presenting the Cabaret Times Four series at the Club Café. This features the venerable Jan Peters in Old Fashioned, Please!, Michelle Currie in Life's a Bowl of, and the innovative Ida Zecco in Loesser is More: The Music of Frank Loesser.