If you are desperately seeking entertainment on these days with the overloaded presidential primaries, you'll find distraction in the pleasure of HBO's "In Treatment." Don't look for a huge cast or fancy sets, but, more importantly, it's brain-friendly television (unusual these days!)."In Treatment" is a five-night-a-week drama series, and a worthy successor to "The Sopranos." The drama lies in the battle of wits between a therapist and his patients. Each half-hour depicts a juicy and what I suspect is a realistic therapy session. The patients are fully fleshed-out people. Even the therapist himself has his own sessions with a retired colleague. The writing is remarkably low in predictable dialogue. You're never quite sure where it's headed. It takes time, but it's good in the way a very good movie is. Happily, for me, the week's episodes encore as a block on HBO Saturday and Sunday, so you can pick your time and day to settle in and enjoy a fascinating, deliberate, steady piece of entertainment on the "boob tube." You'll find yourself hoping that your telephone doesn't ring while you're watching.
My mom was a practicing dentist who, in addition, enjoyed practicing the piano. The truth is that she did better than practice. She was a talented jazz pianist. No matter where she was, if she spotted a piano, she'd sit down and play. Before long, a crowd would gather and she'd get them all singing. Perhaps that's why I enjoy playing for sing-alongs. In a sing-along, no one minds a voice gone off-key. In the last few months, the members of the Bayonne Senior Orchestra have been presenting sing-alongs at places like the JCC, the senior centers, the Adult School, and other such gatherings. Sing-alongs draw together the average-voiced and bring old songs into common memory. It's not the gold-plated, repetitious, sans-lyrical music - the music the American majority knows in 2008. There are many, many classic songs Americans know by heart, songs perhaps they sing in the shower - songs of Berlin, Gershwin, Porter and so many others. Most folks know more than "Happy Birthday to You" (as an aside, that's the first song my mom encouraged me to learn - by heart). The songs the Bayonne Senior Orchestra play for sing-alongs give the singers the power to feel they own the music. But wait - there's more. Scientists feel there are health benefits from singing. There are a few intriguing findings, some weightier than others. Studies have found that singing helps people with asthma and bronchitis because of the deep breathing and because a variety of muscles, such as the diaphragm, get a workout. Some experts report that singing is helpful for patients with dementia. Singing familiar songs can help build self-esteem and alleviate loneliness. And don't forget, there's the sociability factor, simply because, "Gee, we're all together," even if the individual has a strong, penetrating voice or a murmuring one with a wobbly pitch. No one cares. If it makes you feel good, sing out - and I must say "thank you" to my mom for giving me the gift of music.
Which do you think is the most romantic holiday of the year? Yes, you guessed it - obviously Valentine's Day! Lucky me, I celebrated it at the World Financial Center's Winter Garden. The program for the afternoon was titled "Once Upon a Ballet," presented by the New York Theatre Ballet. It was a double bill of "Carnival of the Animals" and "The Sleeping Beauty." An audience of over 500 lucky folks watched Queen Diana and a lively assortment of charming animals in colorful, imaginative costumes dancing to glorious music by Camille Saint Saëns. That was followed by fairytale favorites at the wedding celebration of Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming, set to Tchaikovsky's famous score. In all, it was a unique hour-long production created for children, and it was delightful for the adults, too. Most of the grown-ups in the audience came with kiddies who showed their delight by dancing freely in the aisles. I enjoyed watching them and had to hold back from joining in the dance. The young ones got the chance to experience the wonder of dance first-hand. The mission of arts>WFC is to serve as the leading showcase in Lower Manhattan for visual and performing arts. It presents bold, emerging and established artists. This month for Saint Patrick's Day, there will be a festival of new Irish music - and here's the happy surprise. No tickets are required, seating is first come, first served and all of the arts programming are free to the public. Who could ask for anything more! Simply hop the Path train at Journal Square - three stops - and you're there.
If you know who Tony Martin is, you're older than you think. A belting crooner of the old school, I remember him as the singer who married dancer/actress, Cyd Charisse (she was gorgeous!). In fact, Tony Martin was a film, TV and recording star of years gone by. A singing star from the late 30s through the 50s, his style was crowded out by the rock and roll (bad!) era. In his younger days, Martin had a rich and robust sound. That said, I was surprised to read that he recently appeared at the elegant Feinstein's Cabaret in New York City. Why was I surprised? Well, do you know any 95-year-olds - yes, 95 - who can put on a show? I need to revise that question: Do you know any 95-year-olds who can stand up straight and belt out a group of songs? According to a review of his act, Tony Martin is still crooning songs like "There's No Tomorrow" (adapted from "O Sole Mio"), "The Very Thought of You" and, my favorite, "I Don't Know Why." The "New York Times" ended its review with the following sentence about Martin's marriage (in 1948 - what?!): "The couple could be an advertisement for rejuvenating benefits of marital stability." I like that.