Cabaret at Germano’s
By Michael Miyazaki for Cabaret Scenes
In the heart of Baltimore’s bustling Little Italy, you’ll find Germano’s Piattini. Pass the signboard outside that lists the week’s cabaret offerings, and go up the stairs of the restaurant. There you’ll find one of Charm City’s liveliest venues, featuring a regular mix of cabaret, jazz, classical and theatrical acts—along with great Italian food.
Performers appearing at the Cabaret at Germano’s have the Baltimore School of the Arts (BSA) to thank for the venue. Germano Fabiani was at a meeting of his daughter’s school where officials explained the need for additional performing outlets for the students. His wife, Cyd Wolf, convinced him to offer a catering room of his restaurant as a cabaret space. “There was a magic,” Wolf remembers. “We talked about what each of us could do and it had the whole family working together.”
The room opened in May 2008. Originally meant to offer six or seven student shows a semester, it has grown into one of Baltimore’s most active arts venues, often offering five or six performances a week.
Working with noted Baltimore performer/teacher Carolyn Black-Sortir, Wolf devised a vision for a short-term and five-year plan. “She really gave us a vision of who we were and what we could accomplish.” In addition to the rich resources offered by schools such as the BSA and the Peabody Academy of Music, Wolf tapped into a local network of cabaret performers. And jazz artists discovered the venue, too.
Upgrading the level of talent also meant upgrading the resources at the club. “We didn’t have that beautiful piano at the time,” says Wolf. And, for the first four months, the Cabaret at Germano’s didn’t even have a sound system. “But we decided we needed to bring this to another level, so we bought the microphones and the sound system.”
A typical week at Germano’s can now feature the comedy/cabaret of the Killer Stilts, local jazz group String Theory, a mandolin ensemble, and an actor doing a one-man show about Edgar Allan Poe. Although Wolf generally only books acts with a local audience base, nationally known musicians and singers. A particularly notable repeat artist has been Jimmy Webb. “We booked him for a night. He loved it here and his manager called me and said that Jimmy would love to come back.”
One explanation of cabaret holds that the art form should feel like the performer is singing to friends in a living room. The 100-ish seat space is one of the most relaxed, intimate cabaret settings in the country. And Wolf does everything to make both audience and talent feel like welcome family members.
As performer Mary Reilly explains, “Cyd Wolf and Germano are gracious and hospitable hosts. They welcome performers enthusiastically and share that enthusiasm with the audience. Their commitment to cabaret has added a delightful element to the Baltimore entertainment scene and a great venue for performers.”
Three years into the five-year plan, Germano’s seems to be thriving, with a lively talent and audience base. “We have a strong following. That’s beautiful,” said Wolf. “But what distinguishes the people who come here is that they know they’re coming here for a show, for a performance, and not background music, and they’re by and large very respectful. And they get it. They get the whole excitement of being able to watch a show, dine and be part of that creative process.”
Asked what her advice for future cabaret impresarios would be, Wolf says, “To keep it going, you need to be a jack of all trades. I would make sure I had connections with the artists’ world and then I would see what my community really needed. Then you call and communicate with your people—your artists and your audience.”
For more information and a complete performance schedule, visit germanospiattini.com/events/