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Herald Tribune, March 9, 2007

O'Neil toasts Irishman's Journey Home

by Marilyn Carpenter

St. Patrick's Day is nigh and is a-callin' for music that inspires laughter as well as tears, the wearin' of the green, corned beef and cabbage and good whiskey and stout.

Boston Irishman, singer, comedian and raconteur John O'Neil is scheduled to take the stage at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County March 16 and 17 to toast this highest of Irish holy days with his show, An Irishman's Journey Home.

Touted by the Boston Globe as "one of New England's best-know cabaret artists" and by Boston Magazine as a "cabaret sensation," O'Neil is looking forward to his third trip to the Charlotte County stage, especially at this time of year. "I'm beside myself with joy – which, of course, is my favorite position," he said during a recent phone conversation.

O'Neil said he was born 51 years ago in Boston to an Irish father and "a woman who didn't listen to her mother at all and married an Irishman nonetheless."

This particular show has special meaning to O'Neil. Several years ago, he realized his father, uncles, and grandfather had all died and there was no one preceding him on the paternal side of the family.

He said, "there was nobody to ask about the old days any longer. So, I started this search for, I guess, an identity, or for myself, and it started with this show which was originally called Back to Enniskillen (his Irish ancestral home)."

Though based on much personal history, O'Neil said he will be telling wonderful stories of a host of characters that people will recognize.

"They may not know them intimately, but certainly every good Catholic boy has had a sister Bernadette in his history and everybody has the wonderful neighbors that I speak of and the relatives I mention as well," he said.

"I think the first thing that I tell the audience is, 'Let me tell you something about the Irish. We drink!' The whole show is based around toasts. I say, 'We are toasting the living. We are toasting the dead. We are toasting the audience. We are toasting ourselves,'" he said.

With Jim Rice on piano, Malgorzata Zarzyscka on violin and Dominic Mancini on bass, O'Neil, who said he is more a "bari-tenor" than a baritone, will incorporate lots of Irish music, including "Danny Boy," "When Irish Eyes are smiling," "Irish Lullaby", "Charlie on the MTA", Molly Malone" and more.

I think by the time everyone goes (home) they will all have had a good time, heard a few familiar songs and, hopefully, shed a good Irish tear or two as well," O'Neil said.

An Irishman's Journey Home is being brought to Charlotte County by Valerie Sneade and Turning Leaf Productions.

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