Linda Lavin doing a nightclub act?
Well, that’s how she started, as the multiple award winner reminded the audience at 54 Below last night.
“I started in clubs,” said Lavin, “all of which had the name Downstairs in them.
‘Nobody ever came, so you could fail all night long.”
Well, this time the club had Below in the title (“I’m hoping for a street level gig someday,” laughed Lavin), but it was packed, with people like Hal Prince, Carol Burnett, Penny Fuller, and Jane Howdyshell, and even some non Tony types.
And Linda–with the help of musical director Billy Stritch–delivered a show that fused various elements from her career and her talent.
It mixed some autobiography, a couple of satirical songs (“He couldn’t get it up/He had the Cape Canaveral blues”), one of her hits (“You’ve Got Possibilities” from It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane…It’s Superman), and a lot of shimmery romantic standards done to a jazzy, sometimes bossanova-ish arrangements, with instrumental riffs and even some scat signing.
Lavin’s husband Steve Bakunas played drums, Aaron Weinstein served some excellent jazz violin, and Lavin herself took to the piano to accompany herself on a couple of the songs.
There were a few too many similar mid-tempo sultry numbers–I would have liked some more brassy stuff to shake things up–but Linda was obviously in heaven acting out her passions, and it was fascinating to see her as the kind of chanteuse I never knew she was.
And even though her father once told her that “even Sammy Davis doesn’t work on a Jewish holiday,” Linda did, stopping to remark to the crowd, “Thanks for being here. Is it brisket?”
No, I had the chicken, and was pleased to be entertained by a New York treasure–who by the way is moving back to New York from Wilmington, North Carolina.
There’s a new girl in town indeed!