I’m not only not a fan of reality TV but I’ve never watched a single show. But I’ve watched highlights on YouTube and it’s remarkable how many incredibly talented people there are around the world. (And in Santa Monica, which I will get to shortly.)
Apparently, the most popular reality TV programming is the “Got Talent” format, which, as of 2014, had spin-offs in 58 countries. The original “Got Talent” was conceived by Simon Cowell who must be a billionaire by now. He also often appears as a “judge” and is known to insult contestants and their singing. Reportedly very cheap, he’s so successful that, in 2010, “Time Magazine” named Cowell one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. (What a world.)
Here are just some of the countries that have the The X Factor: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece/Cyprus, Iceland, India, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, UK/Ireland and Kazakhstan. On YouTube you can actually see highlights of “Kazakhstan X Factor.” In fact, here’s the description to the clip, “X Factor. Стартует новый, 6 сезон! Приходи на прослушивания!” (Where is Borat when you need him?)
All of which brings me to the amazing talent here in Santa Monica, specifically of the senior variety. Tomorrow, 15 very talented seniors, ranging in ages from 70 to 95, with a variety of musical and comedic talents, will perform at the Miles Playhouse in “The Senior Talent Show.” Here’s a rundown of the performers who are convincing me that 80 is the new 54.
For starters, the M.C. for the afternoon is 87-year-old Archie Barkan (great name or what?) who has been an entertainer, piano player, and M.C. who has introduced over 300 comedians during his career. Here in Santa Monica, for many years Archie taught a class about Yiddish (I’d love to have taken it) at Emeritus College.
The acts will include Jeremy Vernon, an 85-year-old comedian. Google “YouTube Jeremy Vernon Dean Martin Show,” and see how funny and how amazing with dialects he is. A year junior to Jeremy is Paul Veglia, a former tenor with the Metropolitan Opera. (My old job.) Paul will be singing the classic “O Sole Mio.”
A maestro on the trumpet, and a youngster in the group at a mere 65, Marcello Olavares who was born in Chile, will do a version of “The Shadow of Your Smile.” Other senior talent performing include: Marlene Flowers, John Breslin, Alice Schultz, Elaine Webster, Kalani Whittington, Valerie Swift Bird, Laurie Raskin and Rissi Moorehead.
Inga Nielsen, whose TV and movie credits are vast, including such movies as “Funny Girl,” “Silent Movie,” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” (Not too shabby!) A profession singer who performs in hotels and cruise ships, Inga will sing “Here’s to Life.”
Closing the show will be 95-year-old dynamo and singer extraordinaire, Jerry Rosenblum who was the guest speaker at this month’s recent Kiwanis Club meeting. With Jerry’s uplifting rendition of “If I were a Rich Man,” from “Fiddler on the Roof” he will likely bring the house down. (Don’t panic, that’s only a show biz expression not an earthquake prediction.)
Two performers, however, are nowhere near being “seniors.” The professional pianist for the show will be longtime Santa Monica resident, Gary Nesteruk who has a music studio in Sunset Park. Filming the show for a DVD is 14-year-old multi-talented Anthony Bvlgari, who sings, plays the violin, trumpet, and guitar, is a magician, a tap dancer and an aspiring filmmaker. (A tap-dancing Spielberg?)
Before the 2nd act gets fully underway, Anthony will take a quick break from filming. While his mother takes over the camera, Anthony will tap dance to a famous jazz piece recently made even more famous by the duet of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, “It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Don’t Have That Swing.”
Tomorrow’s show is already sold out but another show (1 PM at Miles) is scheduled for April 1. Enormous credit goes to Jerry Rosenblum who’s been persistently lobbying for a “Senior Talent Show” for the past few years. Kudos to Arts Commissioner Phil Brock who saw the wisdom in the idea and also to Justin Yoffe, Cultural Affairs Supervisor and Director of the charming Miles Memorial Playhouse.
Passionate about performing, the seniors donate their time. If the April 1 concert sells out, there may be more Senior Talent Shows. If I ever see money bags Simon Cowell in the audience, I’ll insist he at least pay them scale.
For tickets to the April 1, Senior Talent show at the Miles Playhouse, call (310) 458-8634 or go to: http://www.smgov.net/departments/ccs/milesplayhouse/. Jack Neworth is at firstname.lastname@example.org.