Monday, July 7, 2014
LINDA LAVIN TO SING AT THE KATE
Linda Lavin can easily be called an American legend. As an award winning singer and actress, she has earned a place not only in America’s songbook as a crooner but on the legitimate stage. Born in Portland, Maine, this talented performer had an opera singer as a mom, a coloratura soprano, one who gave up the stage to be a parent. With an older sister nine years her senior, she refers to herself as a “surprise.”
Doctors had told her mom to give up singing professionally to have another child, because of her difficulty conceiving, and that’s what she did. Lavin calls having such a powerful mother a “mixed blessing,” the ying to her yang, but when they did three part harmony while washing dishes it was all worthwhile.
Her father was a businessman and probably didn’t join in the song.
That famous harmony will be on display on Thursday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. when Linda Lavin graces the stage of the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main Street, in Old Saybrook with her incredible show ”Possibilities.” Her husband of 9 years Steve Bakunas will be on stage with her as drummer, with her musical director Billy Stritch on piano. Her little dog Mickey is sure to be near by.
Lavin was the original “little grownup,” encouraged to sing and perform by her mom and friends. She loved to act, to get attention, to show off. Her mother even claims that at one year of age, she stood up in her crib and sang “God Bless America.” In her world, singing was required. Her mother wanted her to be a concert pianist and she felt great pressure to fulfill her mother’s dreams. For fifteen years, she hated it, preferring to improvise rather than play what was required. “My tough teacher was mean and playing didn’t make me happy. I wanted to sing and learn jazz. The stress was terrible. An accidental injury to my finger finally freed me from the yoke of my mother’s dream one week before a big concert.” On stage, she claims to be nowhere near as nervous.
To Linda Lavin, acting and singing “give me joy.” She learned to be flexible in life early on. At the age of six, on Halloween, she wanted to be a princess. When she came down with the chicken pox, her mom told her “now you can be a witch.”
Her motto is “expand, grow, change.” At age 8, she had her heart set on being Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” but got cast as the White Rabbit instead, which was both disappointing and challenging. Her big turn as a totally different Alice wasn’t to come for many years. In the school show “I Love Lucy,” she was cast as Ethel instead of the coveted role as Lucy. Show biz life is a series of lefts instead of rights, but Lavin always managed to find her balance.
Her iconic role as the waitress/mom/singer in “Alice” gave her a new identity as a working woman and led to her speaking to Congress on labor issues and women’s rights. After nine seasons on “Alice,” Lavin wanted to go back to the theater, “I wanted all the women who live in me to get heard.” Roles in “Broadway Bound,”where she earned a Tony, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” as Lena in “Lena: My 100 Children,” as Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and as the wife Marjorie in “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and scores of others on stage and screen and television have cemented her star over the show business door.
Recently this 76 year young and vibrant lady took up jazz piano, on her old childhood piano that follows her wherever she moves. It came with her to Wilmington, North Carolina where she lived for many years before returning to New York City. In Wilmington, she and her husband Steve established the Red Barn Studio as a community theater as well as using her foundation to create a theater program to raise the self-esteem of at-risk teenage girls in the inner city. She now teaches master classes in New York.
At the Kate, she will showcase her singing act “Possibilities,” which she describes as “the story of my life in song and patter.” What could be better.
For tickets ($ 65 ), call The Kate at 877- 503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org.
Many times in her life, Linda Lavin has started over, reinventing herself as a new person in a new community. Come witness the newest version of her glory at The Kate and applaud her star power as it shines, sparkles and glows.