Perhaps best known for her TV role as Alice Hyatt and her Broadway performances in “Broadway Bound” and “The Lyons,” Linda Lavin’s career has come full circle. At age 75, the actor, who began as a singer when acting jobs in theater were scarce, seems to be facing that situation once again.
Her opening numbers (“I’ve Got My Eyes on You” and “It’s Love”) fell short of matching the glamour or expectations of New York’s hottest nightclub, 54 Below. She compared the look of the room to that of a “Speakeasy” with old glamour. “We’ll try to measure up” said Lavin, recalling her early days on the stage 50 years ago and her friendship with then renegade Lenny Bruce. That led her into “The Boy From…,” an upbeat parody of “The Girl From Ipanema.” At that point her comedic side established itself, and she seemed more authentic. The show builds as she sang “Possibilities,” which she originated (and Peggy Lee later popularized) when she sang it to Superman (the late Jack Cassidy) in her first break on Broadway. It’s also the name of her first and recent CD.
Music was a part of Lavin’s early years – her mother wanted her to be a concert pianist. She revealed that side when she took the keyboard over from her musical director, Billy Stritch, to channel Diana Krall in “Long Ago and Far Away” followed by an appealing duet with Stritch.
It took several numbers and the introduction of Aaron Weinstein, the amazing 27-year-old jazz violinist, to get the set moving. “It Might As Well Be Spring” breathed new life into the show.
“Linda found me at Birdland,” said Weinstein after the show. He described her as “open” and “generous.” “She doesn’t care where a suggestion comes from. She’ll say, “Do you have any songs?”
Lavin’s vocals lack range–she’s lost the high notes– but her back up musicians are accomplished, including her husband of eight years, Steve Bakunas, on drums; Steve Doyle on bass; John Hart on guitar and, of course, Billy Stritch. Despite a slow start, the combination of Stritch’s jazz arrangements and Lavin’s versatility and amusing chatter offer an entertaining show.