“Recovery” may bring to mind a 12-step program — but far from it — this is a cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC.
So what is Bob O’Hare recovering from — sex addiction, crack, PTSD, or sexual abuse and dissociation as the character in the autobiographical “Lemon Meringue” playing a few blocks away?
The problem is this former lawyer keeps us guessing. It is clear from his musical selections that he spent time in a rehab facility, endured physical therapy and was determined to get better. Shortly after O’Hare made his cabaret debut four years ago, he had a serious fall but he neglects to share this with the audience.
Recovery not only followed but provided him with a theme for his current show. The show opens with O’Hare singing “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” from a chair with his back is to the audience. The show and his recovery progress through the works of important composers, including the Gershwin brothers, Jerry Herman, Paul Simon and Stephen Sondheim.
We learn that he came to terms and accepted “Bertha,” not a woman, but a black suit of armor taped around his torso. He sings “Embraceable You” to Bertha before taking off the Velcro harness.
Despite the theme, the baritone revealed his perseverance and good humor through not only lyric but also standing up to sing “One Step,” the turning point of his repertoire and a highlight of the show. He tells us about his fear at the hospital through words and song but doesn’t show it. Somehow his passion doesn’t reach the audience. The show is loosely tied together with the theme so simplified that it feels shallow.
Although far from a superficial experience, the depth he intended doesn’t shine through. He’s not real macho and yet doesn’t allow his more vulnerable side to reach us. What’s missing is a strong passion for the lifetime passing him by. He tells us that he was ecstatic to go home, yet afraid to leave the cocoon of the hospital. He took one step at a time and finally made it home with his wife. Even his rendition of “You and I” was not as convincing as the words begged.
“Help is On The Way” was inspirational. Many of the songs in keeping with the theme were familiar: “April Love” and “Kiss Her Now.” He was backed by a trio of top notch musicians: musical director Tom Nelson, on piano, Tom Kirchmer on bass and Peter Grant on drums. Although certainly a pleasant and unique show, neither O’Hare’s voice, presentation, nor script jumped out as exceptional. Bob O’Hare has two more shows, Nov. 17 and 22.
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