Richard Mercer’s long running late night radio program, Love Songs and Dedications, was a melting pot of stories and insights on love. Strangers from all walks of life would call in, in the dead of night, seeking advice from ‘The Love God’ or just to tell their story of love, happiness or despair to whomever happened to be listening. And of course, accompany their story with a song dedication.
In the world premiere of Dedications, written by John O’Hara and Anthony Harkin, O’Hara delves into the background of the characters who sought advice from ‘The Love God’. Over its 17 years on the radiowaves, Mercer’s program developed a loyal following. Frank, the aging romantic regular caller, shows that one should never give up on love. Travis, on the other hand, laments the complications between love and lust. The female caller contingent in Dedications is represented by a hormone fueled teenage girl, who begins her story with a hilarious anti-dedication to her now-ex-boyfriend, and Elizabeth, who dedicates a song to ‘her Helen’.
O’Hara skillfully transitions between characters throughout the narrative of Dedications. The ease with which he changes persona is mesmerising, and the characterisation, particularly of hapless Travis, is hilarious.
The clever structure of O’Hara and Harkin’s work, with various interwoven stories, is enhanced by Harkin’s direction. Clear and definitive contrast between characters is key to Dedications’ success – John O’Hara absolutely nails it!
O’Hara also nails the music. His voice, again manipulated to suit his variety of characters, is sublime! The musical direction of Luke Hunter is inspired. The anti-dedication medley is hilarious, and the arrangement of Heaven Is A Place On Earth is haunting. Of course, it wouldn’t be an homage to Love Songs and Dedications without the classic loves songs of the 70s, 80s, 90s and now. The time-honoured love song classics are all there – thank you Aerosmith, Meatloaf, Whitney Houston and MORE!
There is more depth and darkness in Dedications than expected. The delicate balance of heartwarming, heartbreaking, racy and raunchy keeps the audience engaged throughout. It’s hard to believe that this is the cabaret debut for John O’Hara!