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Linda Lavin Encores at 54 Below in September 23 Matinee

by Ellis Nassour on September 21, 2012

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It’s a sure bet that Linda Lavin is best remembered for her acclaimed TV series Alice [1976-1985; Emmy nominee], however she’s no stranger to the boards. The Tony-winning actress-singer has been Tony-nominated six times and Drama Desk-nominated eight times [with two wins], and is an Obie winner. Now, she’s not only a recording artist with her first solo CD Possibilities [Ghostlight Records], which comes very late in her encompassing career, but also, as she has proven in several engagements here recently of  Linda Lavin…Now, a cabaret star.

On September 23, she’ll do an encore matinee of her much-raved-about show, which she performed Monday night. It’s not to be missed.

Before her big leap, in her third Broadway outing, stealing It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman [from Jack Cassidy, and that had to be some superwoman achievement], the Strouse/Adams/Newman/Benton musical, where director Hal Prince plucked Lavin out of the ensemble and gifted her with a major featured role and two showstoppers: “You’ve Got Possibilities” and “Ooh, Do You Love You,” Lavin toiled from the mid-60s in cabaret and Off Broadway [The Mad Show, Little Murders, Shakespeare] for 10 years.

Being considerate of her giant talent, it might be said that Lavin’s a far better actress. As a vocalist, the spirit is very willing – and often sassy, sensuous, and sexy – but some high notes are not so. However, the majority aren’t going to go see Lavin for her stellar singing, but for the entertaining spell she casts.

Lavin says she thrives on being in front of audiences. It must be true, because in the last two years, she’s certainly been in front of them and in diverse roles. She was seen onstage recently in the original Lincoln Center Theatre production of Other Desert Cities, the Kennedy Center revival of Follies, and Off Broadway at the Vineyard  and on Broadway in The Lyons.

Regarding her CD, Lavin says, “I wanted to record songs I grew up with and songs I’ve sung in my act. They are tunes that mean a lot to me in terms of telling the story of who I am.”

The 12 tracks feature a mix of Broadway and standards, including “Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)”, “Hey, Look Me Over, ” “In Love Again,” “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” “The Song Remembers When,” “Two For the Road” and “You’ve Got Possibilities.”

But the 54 Below concert is much more than tracks from the CD. Songs include several of  the above and the madcap “The Boy From…,” a parody of the Brazilian samba hit “The Girl from Ipanema” by Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim (featured in The Mad Show), “My Foolish Heart,”  “So Many Stars,”  ”There’s a Small Hotel,” “You Better Love Me (While You May),” and, surprising the audience with her proficiency on the piano, a medley of  ”It Amazes Me”/”Long Ago and Far Away.”

Billy Stritch, on piano and dueting with Lavin, is music director, accompanied by a quartet, which includes drummer Steve Bakunas, her husband.

In addition to copies of Possibilities, which Lavin will autograph for purchasers at 54 Below, the CD is available at

If you’ve not yet visited 54 Below, you’re in for a treat. The former basement of the disco era’s infamous Studio 54, which at one time also housed an equally infamous VIP Green Room, has undergone a complete transformation into a jewel box cabaret worthy of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast days.  It’s executed with enough red to have made a run on the red market, gilded pier mirrors, nostalgic prints, and a faux antique tin ceiling by Broadway’s multiple Tony  winning set designer John Lee Beatty. Though the stage is only a couple of inches bigger than postage stamp size, the sound is good and the sightlines from almost anywhere are excellent. The room has additional theater pedigree:  award-winning producers Steve Baruch, Richard Frankel, Marc Routh, and Tom Viertel are owners; and Tony winner Scott Wittman (Hairspray; TV’s Smash) is creative consultant.

54 Below tickets are $30-$40 plus a $25 minimum. For reservations, call (866) 468-7619 or visit Entrees from the first-class kitchen range from $15-$32, with appetizers from $10-$18.


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