Documentary by Adam Baron
By: Sharon Aron Baron
A local couple have turned their retirement into truly their golden years, as they became an entertainment duo recreating the most memorable tunes from Broadway’s past.
Marlene and Chet Solender both 22-year residents of Tamarac, Florida retired from professional careers and have combined their love of Broadway music with their desire to travel into a new life where they perform in front of audiences around South Florida and on cruises worldwide.
Originally from Brooklyn, Chet started taking piano as a preteen and played Chopin at his 8th grade graduation ceremony. Many years later he taught piano lessons, and then formed a small dance band in World War II to entertain at USO events before the troops went off to war. While in the Navy, he also played in the Naval band. After the war, he went back to college earning his bachelor degree eventually going to dental school and subsequently practicing dentistry for 40 years. During this time, he played the piano for his amusement “but nothing sensational” he said.
Marlene, who is originally from the Bronx was a microbiologist until she went into the health care computing field. She also taught at Nova Southeastern University.
The chemistry, on and off the stage, of this duo is unmistakable. They met at a singles party 35 years ago where Marlene said, “I took one look at him and I knew – there sits my next husband.”
After Chet met her, he never realized that she was a singer until months into their relationship. It was then when he had her record a song written by family members, which led to her introduction to the rest of his family.
They have been married for 32 years and between them they have seven children. “Chet has four children and seven grandchildren and I have three children and seven grandchildren, ” said Marlene.
After retiring, she realized she didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, Marlene wanted to travel the world but it was too expensive. “But we figured out a way,” she said.
Marlene put three stories together of Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, by researching, finding out about their lives, and making sure the music segued into the story lines. She then called the agent from a cruise line, who then booked them sight unseen onto the ship.
They were popular, packing them in during their many performances on over 50 cruises world-wide.
Chet and Marlene’s schedule continues to be busy and they perform not only in South Florida but along the west coast from Naples to Fort Myers as well. Besides retirement communities including Aston Gardens in Parkland near Coral Springs, they continue to perform at charity events, men’s clubs, women’s clubs, JAFCO events, and country clubs.