There’s a major plus when an award-winning actress takes to the cabaret stage, as Linda Lavin demonstrated in her appealing performance at 54 Below on Monday, September 17, 2012. Lavin not only can sing a wide variety of songs with a voice that is warm and pleasing if not at a Barbara Cook level. She is a master at interpretation, cozying up to her audience in a manner that gives insight to every lyric, enhanced by appropriate gestures, expressions and overall dramatic flair. What’s more, she’s fun. Her personality is on display as well as her talent, and there is plenty of both. And she looks great, wearing a sparkling grey gown and flashing the Lavin smile that connects.

I remember Lavin way back when she was appearing in revues on the Manhattan nightlife scene before she hit it big. Being comfortable on a nightspot stage is old hat for her, and she amusingly referred to some of those early years. But now she turns up as big star Linda Lavin and has a following eager to see her perform. At 54 Below, which has quickly earned a reputation as an inviting cabaret space on the Broadway scene, her show featured Billy Stritch at the piano and as musical director. The super violinist Aaron Weinstein was also part of the act, and he always dazzles with his virtuosity.

Lavin’s musicians also included John Hart on guitar, Steve Doyle on bass and Steve Bakunas on drums. Lavin took the opportunity to introduce Bakunas as her husband, a status providing an opportunity for some welcome banter, as well as her playfully directing a song toward him, “You’d Better Love Me While You May.”

The star was especially effective sexily singing “I’ve Got My Eyes on You” with a very warm, intimate take, and she also gave careful meaning to “It’s Love.” There was bounce to her “You’ve Got Possibilities,” which she introduced on Broadway in the musical “It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman,” and she also made a strong impression singing “My Foolish Heart” and in a duet with Stritch, “The Best Thing for You Would Be Me.”

Lavin's interspersed comments included a story about how she got kind advice for her show business career from—and she paused for effect—Lenny Bruce.

It was refreshing to see this show business icon strutting a portion of her stuff on a nightclub stage. Posted September 19, 2012.

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