Growing up, I loved watching Tony and two-time Golden Globe winner Linda Lavin on the hit TV series Alice! I couldn't wait to see what would happen each week at Mel's Diner! Now, as an adult, I still love watching Linda on TV, like in last season's Sean Saves The World, but I also love seeing Linda on the Broadway stage and watching her night club acts (which I've been lucky enough to see twice)! Linda's drive, talent, and security in who she is, is a big inspiration to me! Like Linda, I am Starting Over in this new decade of my life. I'm excited for what's to come, which includes getting to see Linda's new show Starting Over at 54 Below. Linda will be lighting up the 54 Below stage once again September 7, 10, 11, and 12 at 7pm performing Broadway favorites, standards, jazz, and even some songs she learned from the great girl singers! Click here for tickets!
1. This September you are returning to 54 Below with your latest show entitled Starting Over. What excites you about this upcoming engagement? I'm looking forward to playing in the lovely room that is 54 Below and working with my fabulous band, whom there is no greater to work with. Billy Stritch is the most genius Musical Director out there. My husband, Steve Bakunas is my amazing drummer. I have a great guitarist Ron Affif and terrific bassist Tom Hubbard, as well as the superlative virtuoso Jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein.
I feel very fortunate to be returning to 54 Below. We played there in June and got a fantastic review from Stephen Holden of the New York Times, and so on the basis of that, we were invited back. I love doing this show. I love singing songs and connecting with audiences. I'm really excited about coming back to 54 Below with Starting Over, which is what I've been doing my whole life, whether it was geographic, relationship, or work changes. I've started anew many times in my lifetime, so I've decided to tell that story through song and patter, but less patter and more song this time around. The songs will truly tell the story of my life, where the first show I did at 54 Below was devoted to stories of my career.
I'm also looking forward to playing on Monday night, September 7, because most shows are dark Mondays, and this will allow my theatre community pals to be there and it will also let me share this night with people I don't know from the theatre community who have never seen me do this.
2. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Starting Over, what would that reason be? We love to make the show feel like a party in our living room that you are invited to hang out with us, be with us, and enjoy the music. There is a lot of music in this show. Aaron does some incredible work and Billy does some magnificent work at the piano and vocally and we share some duets together, including a Bobby Short segment because Bobby was a big influence in my life. I would listen to his albums every day when I was in college. I think I learned his entire repertoire during my freshman year. I sit at the piano and play some of his music. So, if they want to have a good time, I encourage everyone to come and be with us. People who know me from Alice and my other television/film projects or from the Broadway stages might be surprised to hear me sing. A lot of people often come to my shows and tell me "I didn't know you could sing." I say, "Well, that was me singing on Alice, you know, I wasn't lip syncing to anybody." If you want to be surprised and to have a good time, I'm inviting you to come.
3. With Starting Over, you will once again be working with musical director Billy Stritch. What do you enjoy most about working with him? What is it about your work ethics that make you the perfect match for each other? That's a great question. We are very close. I don't have any brothers, but I consider Billy to be like a brother to me. I love him. I feel safe with him. His musicality is extraordinary. As a musician, singer, and pianist myself, I trust him, his direction, his adaptation to me, his choices are always so tasteful. His musicianship is just tremendous, a combination of Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, those were the greatest. He's fun and funny and the collaboration between us, when we came up with these new ideas and songs, is very strong and trusting. Working on this show has been a collaboration of ideas and what works and what doesn't. Since debuting this show in June, we have toured extensively with it. We had two great shows in Provincetown at The Crown and Anchor. We played Helsinki on the Hudson, The Columbia Club in Indianapolis, Guild Hall in East Hampton and we've had a great time. We are ready to come back to 54 Below, kick ass, and have a great time!
4. You will also be joined on stage by special guest violinist, Aaron Weinstein. How did you first come to discover Aaron? Why do you like performing with him? I met him at Birdland after I saw him perform. It was at Jim Caruso's Cast Party and I just got up and did a number and then asked him to do a number with me. So we just met and sang with each other in a very gracious musical way. I decided then, I always needed to have Aaron in my shows. I really work my shows around schedules. If Billy is not available, I can't do it. If Aaron is not available, I can't do it. People go crazy when Aaron starts playing. No one has ever seen or heard anyone like him. It's really a big part of my show that I can bring young, dazzling people to the stage.
My husband, who's becoming this fantastic Jazz drummer just gets better and better all the time. He works harder than anyone to do that and it shows. He does a fantastic duet with Aaron and me. He's become a vocalist as well. I just love sharing everyone's talent on stage. I really do.
5. Since this show is called Starting Over, at what stage or stages of your life do you feel you've had to "Start Over" and what was that process like? I started over as a child and I will tell those stories on stage. From how a teacher or a mentor opened up a door for me, you know, doors I didn't even know were there to starting over from building a life based upon other people's dreams and my mother's dreams for me, but turning my dreams more vividly into what I wanted rather than what I thought was wanted of me or what I thought other people wanted for me. I will also talk about the career and geographic choices that lead me to start over, having to decide what kind of work am I doing? Am I doing television? Films? Theatre? My club act? These are the moments I'll be sharing with the audience.
A lot of people can identify with this because they also started over. You have to start over sometimes from what you thought you would be doing to who you thought you were going to be with. That all changes and welcoming the change and having the courage to change is something I'm enjoying talking about and singing about. It's finding songs that tell these stories is very exciting for me.
Me: I'm looking forward to coming to see you. I just turned 40, so I feel like I'm at a stage where I'm starting over as well.
Linda: Ohhh. Well, it's never ever too late to start over. As long as we are alive and kicking it's never too late to change. We don't even have to be kicking well, just being alive is sometimes enough.
6. For someone who is just Starting Over, what advice would you give to them? I don't give advice. I just share my stories and experiences and offer hope through my experience. What was given to me, I'm certainly willing to give away in terms of where I've been, what I want, and what I'm doing. Just watch and listen as I do with other people. I think everyone is capable of learning on their own. We all have our own path which is why giving advice doesn't work for me.
7. How do you want to be remembered? I've heard that question asked of many people. I don't think I'll be remembered in one single way. I think everyone who has an experience with me will have their own remembrances of me. I can't dictate how someone will remember me or not. I'm only responsible for what I can do now to be loving, positive, to be true, to be real, to be honest, and hope that those qualities, which do slip and slide, as we go through life and bump into people, will give me a sense of self-respect and a good life. The rest is up to other people. I really don't know how they will perceive me.
8. What's next for Linda Lavin? I have a movie opening on September 21 called The Intern, premiering at the Ziegfeld, starring Robert De Niro and Ann Hathaway, written and directed by the great Nancy Meyers.
Then I'm coming back to Broadway in the new Richard Greenberg play, Our Mother's Brief Affair, directed by Lynne Meadow, at Manhattan Theatre Club. We start previews on December 28 and opening night is set for January 20, 2016. It's so wonderful. I'm really looking forward to it.
Me: You have a lot coming up that we are looking forward to.
Linda: Thank You very much Adam. I really appreciate your time!
A Tony and two-time Golden Globe winner, the world over knows Linda as "Alice Hyatt" in the long-running hit TV series Alice. New York audiences remember her from Nicky Silver's The Lyons, It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Broadway Bound, Collected Stories, The Diary of Anne Frank, Gypsy, Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and many others. As a veteran of the cabaret stage, Linda began her career playing such NYC nightspots as The Showplace in Greenwich Village and midtown’s Downstairs at the Upstairs. In 2011, Linda released her very first CD, Possibilities.