Homeland Center was rocking to “Mack the Knife” when Kat & Tom were back in town.
Kat & Tom are a husband-and-wife song and dance duo whose Homeland appearances always draw a crowd. The popular pair presents carefully crafted shows at retirement communities around the East, but their ties to Homeland are particularly strong and personal.
On this warm summer day, Kat and Tom Kovaleski performed everything from songs written by George Gershwin and Paul Anka – and even Bob Dylan’s ballad “To Make You Feel My Love” -- to those made famous by Patsy Cline, Dean Martin, and Lee Greenwood. Homeland residents’ toes tapped to Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.” The Nat King Cole-Natalie Cole duet version of “Unforgettable” drew appreciative applause.
During instrumental breaks, the pair would step away from the instruments to show off their elegant ballroom and tap dance skills. While Tom, a classically trained ballet dancer, wore spiffy, two-toned wing-tip shoes, alert residents noticed that Kat was barefoot.
“I have injured my knee, and I can’t dance on the carpet in my shoes,” she explained. “I’m dancing barefoot today, and I hope you don’t mind. Do you mind too much?”
“No!” the residents responded.
As the duo presented their songs, Homeland CNA and dietary supervisor Aprile Greene wandered the room, clapping and inviting residents to dance. Resident Flora Jespersen happily danced to “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” Don Englander took some energetic twirls with Greene during the rousing “Mack the Knife.”
“I love to see them enjoy themselves and the music, and getting them to smile,” Greene said later. “They love it. They make my day.”
Kat & Tom introduced each carefully selected song with a short history, with the year it was written or recorded and any interesting factoids, such as the fact that “Save the Last Dance for Me” was written by a wheelchair-bound man for his wedding to a Broadway star.
“We do a lot of research,” Kat said after the show. “It is trivia, but it’s not trivial. People say, ‘I love that song, but I can’t remember who did it.’ We always want to know who wrote it, who did it, what it was written for.”
Music “will take you back to a place in time,” added Tom. “One of the most exciting things is to see how all of a sudden it touches people. Music will take you to places you don’t forget.”
The pair has a personal connection to Homeland through Kat’s parents, Ray and Joan LaTournous, who were Homeland residents.
“Homeland holds such fond memories,” she said. “We know the care they give here is just marvelous. The staff is so special. They don’t just put the time in. They’re present and accounted for.”
Resident MJ Muro, who had been humming along with the tunes, said it “was just wonderful that they would come here.” She remembered dancing “many, many miles” with her late husband, James. “That was one of our favorite things and singing. We both were always singing with groups.”
The performance even attracted four generations of one family – Homeland resident Betty Dumas, and her daughter Donna Longnaker, granddaughter Michelle Laychock, and great-granddaughter Hannah Laychock. Hannah, a dancer herself, appreciated Tom’s dance performance. Betty has seen Kat & Tom before, “and the sooner, the better” for seeing them again. However, she admitted to not dancing much herself.
“The only dance I went to was my prom,” she said.