Linda Lavin


Feinstein's at the Nikko
San Francisco, CA
Possibilities is a most apt title for Linda Lavin’s new show, a biographical collection of Broadway and cabaret songs that have provided her with a rich and rewarding lifetime of accomplishments. TV, film, Broadway stages and intimate cabaret are part of her DNA. Five Tony nominations and one win (for 1987’s Broadway Bound) isn’t bad for a girl from Portland, Maine whose mother wanted her to be a classical pianist.

Backed by the irrepressible Billy Stritch, local Daniel Fabricant on the bass and husband Steve Bakunas on drums, Lavin opened with Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got My Eyes On You”/ “You Do Something to Me” in her well-worn contralto before launching into a funny story of always playing the downstairs clubs in the early ‘60s. Working Feinstein’s was a great chance to work “street level”!  Off to Miami in 1963 for what she thought would be a high-class hotel gig, Lavin once again was back downstairs. She swings on Donald Fagen’s “Walk Between the Raindrops” and displays her comic acing chops on Mary Rodgers/Stephen Sondheim’s “The Boy from …” (“Tacarembo la Tumbe del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas la Junta del Sol y Cruz”) from 1966’s The Mad Show. The bossa style is a parody of Jobim/de Moraes/Gimbel’s sexually breathy “The Girl from Ipanema.”  This time, Lavin is confused and exhausted with each successive verse, blissfully unaware that her love is gay.

She extends the bossa flavor on “You’ve Got Possibilities” (Strouse/Adams), which she introduced in the Hal Prince-directed It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman (1966). She accompanied herself on the piano for a lovely medley of the ballads “Long Ago and Far Away”/“It Amazes Me,” before introducing Aaron Weinstein, jazz violinist extraordinaire, for Richard Rodgers’s “Loads of Love” and a great rendition of  “I’ve Got Your Number.”

Lavin is 100% sincere and exudes a natural joy that makes her endearing to her fans. She knocks a few numbers out of the house, particularly a sweet “Spring Fever,” Jobim/de Moraes’s “No More Blues” and the 1940 jazz standard “How High the Moon.” I want Linda Lavin at my next dinner party. I think she’d be a hoot. She’s grabbed every offered possibility in show biz and run with it, and cabaret is another oyster at the buffet.

Steve Murray
Cabaret Scenes
September 18, 2014