On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman was informed by his doctor that he had a rare osteosarcoma (bone cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery removing three-quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction and extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was declared cancer-free, he created this touching 12-song cycle. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors, memory problems caused by chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on. But the tone is more celebratory than grim: He’s determinedly life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He’s an engaging and personable performer who brings rueful humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If anything, he tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of scarifying detail if we’re to appreciate his remarkable resilience and optimism.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Sept. 5. Continues through March 28, 2008
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