“I’m going to tell you about a love affair from beginning to end but it’s not linear,” Mr. O’Hare announces at the start of his hour-long program that has 20 numbers linked by the theme of romance.
The title comes from the yearning song “Unfinished Business” by Alan Menken and David Spencer from a 2015 musical adaptation of the film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz..
“Apartment 1F,” Craig Carnelia’s hilarious take on a faltering relationship in a decrepit residence showcases O’Hare’s comic flair while Michel Legrand, Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” displays his dramatic scope. Mr. Carnelia’s “Privacy” and “Just Where They Should Be” also get lovely treatments.
This is the Brooklyn born and New Jersey reared O’Hare’s third cabaret show. In the 1980’s after a career as an actor, O’Hare became a lawyer and in 2009 made his cabaret debut. Shortly afterward he fell off the roof of his house while doing repairs and sustained a serious spinal injury. Four years later following recuperation and rehabilitation, he performed a show about his health crisis and recovery. The lasting effects of that catastrophe inform his performance.
Dressed in gray trousers and a black pullover, O’Hare walks with the support of a cane through the aisle of Don’t Tell Mama’s cabaret room and up onto the stage and sits in a raised chair where he remains positioned. He opens with the cheerful “No Mary Ann,” a 1969 Stephen Sondheim rarity from an unproduced film.
The white-haired O’Hare’s appealing tenor voice with its regional cadences is expressive. His instrument is in the realm of a tuneful storyteller who mines laughs and emotions with vocal flourishes and marvelous phrasing. His lack of mobility becomes a facet of his mature everyman persona as he conveys the aura of a wounded though happy warrior ready for another round.
Eric Michael Gillett’s subtle direction contributes a brisk yet thoughtful pace and also a theatrical quality that utilizes Collette Black’s adept lighting design. Ms. Black adds varied and colorful hues and celestial dots that visually enhance each song to perfection. Black’s flawless sound design is of great support.
Musically the show is dynamic due to the superb Tom Nelson Trio. This smooth jazz combo is composed of music director Mr. Nelson on piano, Tom Kirchmer on bass, and Peter Grant on drums. Their energetic efforts on Rodgers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones?” are a highlight of their perpetual virtuosity.
Sondheim is further represented by “Happiness” and “Loving You” from Passion, “It Takes Two” from Into the Woods and most powerfully by “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along.
Other familiar show tunes and movie songs such as “I Do, I Do,” “She Loves Me” and “Two for the Road” get mixed in with lesser known ones such as Leslie Bricusse’s “You and I” from 1969’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
Knowledge of Bob O’Hare’s personal triumph over adversity matched with his fine talent, inspired repertoire and the superior technical and musical embellishments all make Unfinished Business …a love story an inspirational entertainment.
Bob O’Hare: Unfinished Business …a love story (April 15 and April 27, 2018)
Don’t Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-757-0788 or visit http://www.donttellmamanyc.com
Running time: 60 minutes with no intermission