By Myra Chanin
Bob O’Hare grew up in New Jersey, attended a Catholic High School and College and then, thought he’d always been interested in musical theater and had starred in regional and summer stock productions including Stop the World, The Roar of Greasepaint, Company, Follies, Godspell, Guys and Dolls, etc. O’Hare had the intelligence and foresight to realize that a life in musical theater wasn’t necessarily a slam-dunk and graduated from Rutgers Law School with a degree and a skill that would allow him to always earn a livelihood. He was good at it too, so it did.
In the early 1980’s, Bob switched from acting into the fulltime practice of law. He’s still in practice and has been very successful at it, but ultimately, he missed performing. Nine years ago, he found a home for both his yearnings and talent at Don’t Tell Mama. His first cabaret show was called Home: A Musical Journey.
Here’s what pre-Theaterpizzazz Sandi Durell wrote about O’Hare’s debut in Cabaret Scenes Magazine. She described him as “a meaningful, sincere, unassuming man, willing to take risks who says ‘unless you do, you’ll never win.’”
A few months later, his cabaret career came to a sudden and unexpected halt when doing outdoor home repairs, Bob had a very serious accident which kept him in the hospital undergoing surgery and physical therapy for several months. Happily, he made a remarkable recovery. Although he now walks with a cane and sings sitting on a stool, his vocal chords are beautifully intact.
His remarkable recovery resulted in a second cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama, which told the story of his recovery in song. Outstanding reviews ensued. From Cabaret Hotline OnLine, “Bob is a witty storyteller, a wonderful singer and has put together a show you will remember for years.” NightLife Exchange raved about his show and said “this is really what an act is supposed to represent both as what cabaret was in its heyday and what the art form is supposed to be from this point on.”
In late April, Bob brought his latest show, Bob O’Hare: Unfinished Business – A Love Story, once again to his home away from home, Don’t Tell Mama. Watching and listening to him was a total pleasure thanks to Bob’s very engaging manner and endearing voice. He also showed extraordinary artistic discernment in hiring the multi-award-winning director Eric Michael Gillett to stage and help select the songs that told his love story from start to finish, including all the ups and downs, putting the music in the golden hands of the brilliant Tom Nelson whose arrangements were musical perfection.
The 20 songs that make up the Unfinished Business love story have an old-fashioned, traditional but still contemporary plot. Bob Meets Girl, Boy and Girl fall in love, Boy and Girl move in together, split up and finally realize they belong together. Songwriters include Stephen Sondheim (from both his produced Broadway Musicals and an unproduced 1969 film), Bricusse and Newley, Styne, Comden and Green, Rodgers and Hart, Bock and Harnick, Legrand and the Bergmans, Craig Carnelia, Kander and Ebb, Schmidt and Jones, Menken and Spencer, and as finale, “That’s All” by Alan Brandt and Bob Haynes. Every wonderful song was exquisitely arranged and in perfect sync with Bob O’Hare’s vocal range. He delivered every song – each one top drawer –with heartfelt emotion. Lilting tunes that made me want to dance. Songs in minor keys sprinkled with delicious diminished chords. Memorable old-fashioned melodies with clever lyrics that make you want to reach out and touch someone you love. The audience loved him. He made each one of us remember the joy of being in love as well as the trauma of the not so wonderful intervals.
As for his band, The Tom Nelson Trio, all triple plus plus musicians, couldn’t have been better. Tom Nelson is an extraordinary musician — pianist, composer of works for string quartet, jazz orchestra and chamber jazz ensemble, arranger, bandleader, teacher and native orchid expert. His charts are peerless, dare I say impeccable, only excelled by his playing. He makes the piano keys bounce, gives even ballads a toe-tapping beat. His glissandos shine, shimmer, glisten.
Bassist Tom Kirchmer has run the gamut from the NY Philharmonic to some of the greats, including Ray Charles, Marvin Hamlisch, Nancy Wilson and Cy Coleman. Drummer Peter Grant studied at the Manhattan School of Music and is a creative and versatile musician always in demand in NY recording studios. Together they are divine.
When the lights came up, everyone in the room looked happy, and stopped on their way out – me, too — to let Bob O’Hare know what a lovely evening he’d given us.
Like everyone else at the show, I’m looking forward to seeing him again and again.