Trixie Little: Wee Star Adds Extra Twinkle With New Cabaret Show

Christmas comes just once a year, but for Baltimore-area theatre goers, the holiday season would not be complete without a double dose of Trixie Little. We caught up with the raucous redhead just ahead of her recent flight home from the left coast. Look for Trixie live and in person later this week as she unveils a new show, “Trixie Little’s Holiday Hootenanny” at The Ottobar.

BPE: You’ll be in Baltimore this week, but definitely not for burlesque. Please tell us about your new show and how you segued into cabaret.

Trixie: Um, well, you know, I consider my work to be under the larger umbrella of Cabaret, which includes burlesque and puppets and music and everything. But this new show is a stretch for me, because I’ll be singing three songs. I wouldn’t usually identify myself as a singer, but I am stretching my talents, so to speak. Luckily, I’m working with a really great live band helmed by Erich von Marko. He has a band called Rolling Chrome. He plays a lot at Golden West, and at the casino out in Anne Arundel County – I forget what that was called.

BPE: Live! out in Hanover?

Trixie: Yeah, that’s the one. They play all over town, and he’s a really great musician. So all the music for the show will be played live. And Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith is also coming. We went to UMBC at the same time – he was in the theater department, and I was in the painting department. Michael wrote a very successful book, called The Good Hand, about working on an oil field for two years in North Dakota. I don’t know if you are familiar with him – he might have left the Baltimore area a long time ago. But he comes back all the time, with friends here and family in Frederick. Anyway, his book is great and his music is also great. He’s just this sort of like a great storyteller, guitar player, kind of a guy. So it’s a fun mix of people that have deep funk roots in Baltimore, along with a kind of country western band, like Rolling Chrome.

BPE: Sounds like this has been a real team effort?

Trixie: We (me and Eric) have been having meetings on the phone for months now. Just working on the acts and the songs and how it’s all gonna go together. And you know, my decision to not have a normal variety show with other acts was partly logistical, because I’m living in Northern California now. Then too, everything’s so crazy and shaken up since COVID, I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. So I was just like, ‘Well, the show must go on. I’m gonna just do a show by myself.’ And really, I was probably always working in that direction anyway.

BPE: Has going solo been a challenge, or do you feel like it’s a natural evolution?

Trixie: Um, both. It’s really challenging, though. It was definitely easier when I was in a duo – just sharing the work. And having someone to travel with and do all that stuff makes everything a little easier. And it’s also nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I guess that’s why I wanted to work with the band, because I’m still collaborating with them – kind of like I would with other cabaret performers. You know, just to create a real fun experience for everybody – finding the right mix of absurdity and vulnerability.

Trixie Little (credit Beatrix Burneston)
Trixie Little (credit Beatrix Burneston)

BPE: There’s really nothing more vulnerable than being alone on stage?

Trixie: Yeah, well, I won’t be totally alone, since the band will be there. It’s a big show for me, for sure. My bags are stuffed to the gills and I packed two trunks – the maximum Southwest will allow.

BPE: When I think about stars, transitioning from stage or screen to cabaret performance, one of the first names that comes to mind is Marlene Dietrich. Knowing you’re such a fan of vintage entertainment, I have to ask if you took any cues from Dietrich and/or other classic performers in developing your cabaret act?

Trixie: Well, yes, obviously, Marlene Dietrich is up there influences for me. She was so captivating onstage, I mean, just like in the movie. What was it?

BPE: The Blue Angel?

Trixie: Yeah, The Blue Angel, thank you. She’s legendary. I think my real direct lineage was I always liked Lucille Ball and Madeline Kahn. The funny redheads really spoke to me. And you know, it’s funny, because I used to say this all the time, but I thought my cabaret shows and burlesque and everything was going to lead to film and TV, because that’s what my idols did. Jackie Gleason came up through vaudeville, as did Buster Keaton. All those guys were really good at their craft because they worked hard in vaudeville. That was my philosophy and the reason that I moved to New York – to get very good at my craft. You find your niche; then, you revolutionize TV and film. That’s what my idols did.

Vaudeville and silent film star Buster Keaton and Virginia Fox in The Electric House (1922) - Public Domain
Buster Keaton and Virginia Fox in The Electric House (1922) – Public Domain

BPE: Is that still a long term goal?

Trixie: I don’t know (laughing). I’m still working on it.

BPE: The last time we talked, you were living in an artist’s space in Northern California. I assume you’re still there?

Trixie: No, I’m not. At the beginning of the pandemic, in May of 2020, I moved to this little town called Nevada City, which is not in Nevada and it’s not a city. It’s about three hours east of San Francisco, in the Sierra foothills. There’s a lot of Burning Man people and organizers for that festival and many other festivals out here in this area. They play big – it’s pretty crazy. But for about three years I had a studio “nest” in Nevada City, where I felt I was bringing a lot of Baltimore 90s warehouse vibes. But there was a big snowstorm last winter, and we didn’t have power or internet for three weeks. I had to cancel all my events and I couldn’t pay my rent. Then the landlord just kicked me out instead of letting me pay late.

It’s been a hard two years. I’d lost my space and was forced to put everything in storage. I was heartbroken.

I had poured my heart into this thing for three years and I just felt very, very hurt. And I was like, ‘Well, maybe this isn’t the place for me.’ So I spent the summer exploring the coast out near Eureka and Arcata and Blue Lake – that whole region. There’s actually a physical theater school in that region called Dell’Arte, which is one reason I wanted to be out there. It’s more my type of clowns, so I relocated just in October. And yeah, I’m still grieving the loss of the nest, but I decided to pick up and start over yet again in another town in California.

BPE: Quickly changing coasts, you’re doing this week’s holiday show at The Ottobar. Of course, we’re familiar with stage shows on the first floor of that venue, but Ottobar has a second level which is a bit more intimate. Given that this is cabaret, I’m wondering which floor you’ve chosen?

Trixie: Oh, this will be on the main stage downstairs.

BPE: So, they’re not going to have tables or chairs set up, like one might expect in a cabaret setting?

Trixie: There will be rows of chairs for a VIP section, but I’m gonna try to pack it. I really want these shows to be filled. I mean, the shows that I used to do at the Creative Alliance would sell out 10 shows without even printing a postcard!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year, so it’s an important show for me to do. And I try to bring a lot of joy in the holidays. That’s what it feels like to me.

When I come back to Baltimore and do a show in my hometown, I see these people who have known me the longest. They’ve witnessed my divorce and everyone knows everything I’ve been through. In a way, there is nothing more vulnerable.

BPE: Especially at Christmas?

Trixie: Everybody has such mixed feelings and experiences about this holiday, but I’m always cheerful about it. My grandparents were really into Christmas, and I love it too. I’ve tried to share that joy by making fun of familiar stuff. I guess you know I like to poke taboos.

BPE: In short – your longtime fans can expect more of the Trixie Little they know and love?

Trixie: Yeah!

Baltimore favorite Trixie Little (credit Beatrix Burneston)

BPE: And what should newcomers expect?

Trixie: Newbees should expect to see all that I actually am. I have a very wide range of things in my repertoire. And the type of physical storytelling that I do, I think, is very unique.

BPE: Any closing thoughts for our readers?

Trixie: It’s going to be interesting for me, because this is the first show I’ve done since the nest closed. I’ve stayed busy, but I haven’t performed in over eight months. It’s like the longest I’ve gone since I started doing shows. I mean, it’s been really hard, not to be performing. Breaks my heart. So I’m having all kinds of emotions. And I feel like I can’t rehearse now – like everything’s just “YAAAAAHHHH” crazy.

BPE: You know, you’re a lot like this reporter, in that every day is a command performance. The question is, are we going to get paid for it?

Trixie: Exactly! Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

BPE: Me too!

Trixie Little’s Holiday Hootenanny runs this Thursday and Friday at the Ottobar in Baltimore, Maryland. Show times are 8pm Thursday and 9pm Friday, with doors opening both nights one hour earlier. The Ottobar is located at 2549 N. Howard St. Information about tickets and other upcoming events may be found at The Ottobar.

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