Broadway and TV thesp Linda Lavin slipped into Gotham town this week for an all-too-brief two-night turn at jazz boite Birdland. With a strong and expressive voice and alluring stage presence, Lavin held the stage for a bountiful 90 minutes, liberally punctuating her well- structured presentation with anecdotal career memories.
Looking glam in a sparkly white pants suit, accessorized by a dashing grey and silvery scarf, Lavin began a reprise of her Broadway credits with “The Boy From…,” a hilarious spin on Brazilian song siren Astrud Gilberto. A satirical and slightly off-key bossa, penned by Mary Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim (writing under the name of Esteban Ria Nido), the tune surfaced in “The Mad Show,” a 1965 revue. Reprised from her two-month run in “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane. It’s Superman” was the witty Charles Strouse-Lee Adams assessment, “You’ve Got Possibilities.”
She’s also played Mama Rose. Reprising her “Gypsy” turn, Lavin revealed the ironies of “Small World” with a vocal assist from musical director Billy Stritch and briskly sailed through “Together Wherever We Go” with dapper vaudeville spirit.
But stepping stones aside, Lavin brought a great deal more sensitivity to the lovely Burton Lane-Frank Loesser film tune “Moments Like This” and, accompanying herself at the piano, “Long Ago (and Far Away),” by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin. She added a breathlessly poignant rendering of the Cy Coleman-Carolyn Leigh definition of romantic awe, “It Amazes Me.”
With a bow to her jazz setting, Lavin put a scat spin on Irving Berlin’s “I’m Putting All My Eggs in One Basket,” giving solo space to bassist John Brown and drummer Steve Bakunas. The latter provided tight and tasteful support and just happens to be Lavin’s hubby. (She noted that Brown is producing a pic honoring legendary cornet player and jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden.)
Stritch, as always, provided boldly generous piano accompaniment. In a vocalized duet with Lavin, he turned Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Corcovado” (“Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”) into a sublimely ardent serenade. Lavin is ripe for a longer gig at perhaps Feinstein’s at the Regency or the Cafe Carlyle, and she would likely find strong support from the Broadway contingent.