No more that all-time thrill, for you’ve been through the mill,” goes Ira Gershwin’s lyric for “The Man That Got Away.” In the course of a 47-year show business career, Lainie Kazan has more or less been through the mill. She takes us along for the ride in an energetically endearing and funny set at Feinstein’s.
The Brooklyn-born chanteuse burst into prominence when — after 18 months in the chorus of “Funny Girl” — Kazan went on as Fanny Brice when Barbra Streisand missed a performance. She alerted everyone she knew in advance, she tells us, which did not endear her to the star.
She became a TV and nightclub regular, with numerous appearances on “The Dean Martin Show,” and made waves with a 1970 Playboy spread. She has acted in films, most memorably “My Favorite Year” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and will return to the screen in June in the Adam Sandler comedy “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan.”
But Kazan’s career has had its bumps, including a period in the early 1970s when she was publicly fired from two consecutive Broadway-bound shows, in part due to an ongoing weight struggle. (She describes herself as “a king-size Lollobrigida.”)
She performs some 18 songs, most with a driving beat expertly propelled by musical director Eddie Caccavale at the drums. But the voice is not quite as strong as it was. Now on the far side of 65, Kazan jokes about her age, telling us she recorded the ’60s pop tune “Sunny” in 1902.
What makes the evening is the warm personality that comes across in her storytelling. Besides “Funny Girl,” topics include a memorable evening when she was summoned to the home of her idol, Judy Garland; she also relates how, with her career “in the toilet,” she talked her way into a job running Lainie’s Room jazz clubs for Hugh Hefner.
One expects her at any moment to launch into Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here,” but Kazan doesn’t: Instead, we get “The Man That Got Away,” and a good rendition it is.
Other highspots include a jazzy “Come Rain or Come Shine,” a tender “I Remember You” and an effective take on her “Funny Girl” song “The Music That Makes Me Dance.” You come away with the impression of a survivor with rough demeanor and heart of gold.