Debra Tidwell wore a gardenia in her hair for her one-woman show, "Out There on My Own," Saturday night at d.c. space, and while she certainly has drawn inspiration from Billie Holiday (and from many others including Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Ethel Merman), the principal talent she shares with the great Lady Day is that of soul-to-soul rapport with audience.
The cabaret-style performance presented by Off the Circle Theater Company had the capacity crowd applauding frequently in mid-number and calling for encores by the powerful-voiced Washington native. Tidwell's enunciation is just about faultless and her vocal range and repertoire of timbres allow her to handle a veritable musical comedy/drama cast of moods and personas.
Tidwell also has a well-developed sense of structure and composition. A medley of "My Own Morning," "My Own Space" and "I Am My Own Best Friend" was a paean to the modern woman that made its points -- and its transitions -- quite naturally through altered styles of delivery apropos of personality growth. "I Don't Care Much" began with tear-swollen eyes and finished with I've-had-it anger while "Taking a Chance on Love" was eye-winking and flirtatious.
Dreamy love ballads, jazzed-up scat, knock-'em-dead sass, the husky gravel of Bessie Smith, chorus-line strutting and a closing "The Man I Love," which rose to great artistic heights and plumbed emotional depths, each played a part in Tidwell's act, which repeats on Aug. 25 and Sept. 21 at d.c. space.
An acoustic trio of pianist Rob Bowman, bassist Mary C. Scott and drummer Pete Chamberlain lent polished and integrated support to the vocalist.