By: Sam Wagmeister, The Vegas Voice Newspaper
The overused term “boyish charm” gets overused once again in describing Mark OToole’s explosive performance Saturday night (Oct.2, 2015) at Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz.
Backed by an all-star band, OToole glided smoothly through 90 minutes of the best of Barry Manilow’s music, only to have an appreciative crowd yell for “more” as melodies subsided.
Between classic Manilow ballads, OToole endeared himself to the sold out audience with his signature anecdotes, stories and jokes that punctuated his magnetic personality. During his medley of Manilow-composed commercial jingles…that included “Grab a Bucket of Chicken” (for KFC), “I am Stuck on Band-Aid ‘Cause Band-Aid’s Stuck on Me” and McDonald’s “You Deserve a Break Today”…OToole turned State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor State Farm is There” into a near love song as he draped over the piano of musical director Vita Corimbi.
OToole the Crooner took the audience through a chronology of the composer’s first public singing performance, recounting Manilow’s five year stint as piano player and musical director for up and coming singer Bette Midler. Manilow asked Bette’s permission to “try out” a couple of newly written songs on the eclectic audience and, as they say, the crowd went wild. It was Manilow’s first public performances; he introduced himself and the songs “Could it be Magic” and “Mandy.” As he spoke, OToole, who has headlined at nearly every casino on the Las Vegas Strip, was visibly overcome with emotion, purposely walking the stage, hands clasped as if in prayer and raised to his lips.
The unscripted and courageous OToole pulled unsuspecting first time fan Carol Benchley from the audience, encouraging her to join in and the pair excited the audience with “Can’t Smile Without You.”
It’s been about a year since Manilow handpicked OToole to pay tribute to his music. “I’ve dreamed of this night all my life,” OToole shared with the audience.
Comedian, actress and longtime Manilow associate Roberta Kent who paved the way for the Manilow-OToole introduction, said after the performance, “This night is a highlight of my life.”
Demonstrating power, emotion and passion unexpected from a Stage Four cancer survivor, OToole put it all together and left everything he had on the stage. As he begrudgingly walked off the stage, he turned to the standing audience and told them, “You made a dream of mine come true.”
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