- Surviving cancer one song at a time!
- From Oncology to Operetto
- The feel-good cancer musical
- With hope, faith and music you can get through anything
- The Cancer Survivor
Charlie Lustman talks about his song cycle “Made Me Nuclear,” performs as a theatrical concert.
Writing a pop operetta about surviving the disease was therapeutic for him, so now he’s taking it to the world in ‘Made Me Nuclear.’
Charlie Lustman is on a musical mission to help people feel better.
He’s written and stars in the first pop operetta about surviving cancer, “Made Me Nuclear.” The sweet, sad and humorous one-man show chronicles Lustman’s bout with cancer, beginning with receiving the diagnosis to being declared clean of the disease after a year of chemotherapy.
“Lustman’s free-and-easy melodies variously call to mind ’70s folk, the blues and the Beatles,” The Times’, “High and vibratoless, his voice is sometimes James Taylor-ish, sometimes Elton John-ish.
“He accompanies himself on keyboard or guitar, often against backing tracks that add layers to the sound, letting the lyrics convey what needs to be known.
Directed by Chris DeCarlo, the show is perfectly simple — and simply irresistible.”
L.A. movie buffs remember the 43-year-old Lustman as the owner and operator of the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue from 1999 to 2006.
“I had it on the market,” the effusive Lustman recalled, around the time he got an offer for the theater, his dentist noticed a little bump sticking out of his jaw.
Because the doctor couldn’t identify what it was, a biopsy was ordered. And on March 1, 2006, Lustman was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of bone cancer — osteosarcoma of the upper maxilla.
“They sawed my jaw off,” he said. “I have a mouth piece now. It is supplementing the jaw bone. This thing goes all the way to the back so you can see my nasal cavity when I take it out. I take it out four or five times a day to clean [after] I eat. I have the cleanest mouth in town.”
Lustman found a major parallel between his bout with cancer and his Polish father surviving three concentration camps as a boy during the Holocaust.
“The connections were hitting me for the first time,” he said. “I shaved my hair — I said, ‘I am going to lose my hair so I am going to shave my hair because I am in control.’ I sat there and I looked in the mirror and I felt like I was sitting in the [concentration] camp because I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. I never connected with that level of fear — this guy survived four years under machine guns. I told him, ‘You were my inspiration,’ over and over. He got that.”
As fate would have it, on March 1, 2007 — a year to the date he got the call about his cancer — Lustman wrote “The Call.”
Lustman decided he was going to write a pop operetta about surviving cancer.
“It all kind of clicked in to be the guy who makes everybody affected by cancer or any challenge feel better through music.”
“I said to my wife, Ri, ‘I have to take this to the world,’ ” he said. ” ‘I can’t do this as a concert. This is not the festival circuit. This is a sharing experience.”
And the fact that he and his wife are expecting their third child is icing on the sundae. “It’s a boy,” Lustman said, beaming.