In tune with June

If you know anything about me then you are aware that every Tuesday afternoon I wend my way to the Starlight Ballroom in Nutley and spend several hours in my idea of heaven – ballroom dancing. That is probably why so many ask if I watch television’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Well, when the ABC program first started I did watch and was put off by the acrobatics. It was hard to even recognize the dances I was so familiar with. Also I was not entranced by the sultry moves and the over-the-top sexy costumes so I didn’t continue to follow the weekly program. However, “Dancing with the Stars” did very well without my tuning in. My friend, Mary, told me that Season 18 is different. The lineup of dancers has included an Olympic gold medalist, game show hosts, swimming legends, and teen pop stars. This season is turning out to be the most competitive one with amazing dancers, and some even heart-wrenching yet inspirational stories. Part of the program’s appeal might be the fact that it literally puts celebrities up close and personal with professional dancers. The atmosphere is electric especially before viewers know who is staying and who is going home. If competition interests you and spellbinding and jaw-dropping moves entertain you, then look for “Dancing with the Stars” on Monday night. It might inspire you to get moving yourself.
I know nothing about football so why did I go to see “Draft Day?” Perhaps because the movie stars Kevin Costner playing a beleaguered general manager of a professional football team. He’s hard to resist. The film has a ticking-clock plot and a testosterone-saturated setting. It trots along briefly. Costner’s charisma is fun even though there’s a conclusion that’s both predictable and exciting. “Draft Day” is a man-crowded movie with only a few women in it: Jennifer Garner (lovely to look at) and Ellen Burstyn (also lovely to look at). The movie is probably going to be more fun for folks who love the gridiron although it is about gamesmanship and about judging character fast. It’s a big movie and happily the drama doesn’t come from flying super-heroes or blazing assault weaponry but adult spirited conversation. Both genders can find it worth seeing.
A few weeks ago I enjoyed an amazing weekend of musical entertainment. On a Saturday night I went to the New York City Center’s “Encores!” “Encores!” is a theater series that features seminal musicals. On this visit I saw “The Most Happy Fella.” Its original run opened in 1956 (many of my readers may not have been born yet). It’s been revived many times. On stage was a wonderful 38-piece orchestra as well as a 38-member cast. In this show the songs exist with soaring romantic arias – a grand hybrid of a show that draws on traditions as diverse and open as opera and Tin Pan Alley. Frank Loesser wrote the libretto as well as the music and lyrics. In “Most Happy Fella” more than 25 songs were woven together. Loesser was a dramatist as well as a great tunesmith. This show tells the story about forgiveness. It’s an emotionally satisfying story bursting with passion, with music, with mirth, with regret. It was a rapturous production. Certain old musicals seem to possess the power to rejuvenate themselves and their audience. I was part of a most happy audience. Then Sunday afternoon I attended the 92nd Street Y’s Lyrics and Lyricists. I’ve always enjoyed that series and this time the focus was on Rodgers and Hammerstein. The artistic host was the very capable and enjoyable Ted Chapin. And the cast included five excellent performers and an extraordinary six-piece orchestra. The songs they performed came from wonderful shows like “South Pacific, “State Fair,” “The King and I,” “Carousel,” “Oklahoma,” and “The Sound of Music.” Whew! I was a most happy fellow again. Soon it will be time for another outstanding series at the 92nd Street Y called “Jazz in July.” Surely that will keep me a happy camper.
In late 1938 with the world on the brink of war, Irving Berlin, the world’s most famous songwriter (dear Reader, I assume you recognize the name) wrote a patriotic song predicted to be timeless. The song was “God Bless America” and its journey to timelessness began almost immediately. Well, among all of Berlin’s huge oeuvre is one that personally appeals to me – “I Love a Piano.” Let me explain. I never lived in a home that didn’t have one. My mom, who worked her way through dental school playing for the silent movies, had her upright, and for my “sweet-sixteen” I was given a small baby grand. As a result I grew up in a home that housed not one, but two pianos and my playing duets with my mother was one of the many highlights of my teenage years. My son, Jim, tells me that I play “You Made Me Love You,” in his words, “just the way grandma did.” Those who have played piano even casually can understand how unimaginable a home would be without one. For me, it would be saying good-bye to my childhood. I was not a prodigy but I did well enough to accompany my fourth-grade class when they were being taught “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.” And in high school I was the pianist with a small swing band. “In The Mood” was the first song I learned with that group, and happily, I can still play it. I even enjoy simply looking at a piano – so elegant. I can’t walk past one without sitting down and playing a tune. In fact, last month I did that in a fine restaurant and was offered a job! I never aspired to make music my career (nor did my parents who wanted me to be a doctor who played the piano). My baby grand traveled with me from Brooklyn to Queens, to River Edge, and now is nestled comfortably in Bayonne. Anyone know a good piano tuner?

You can e-mail June Sturz at

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