Linda Lavin celebrates a life onstage

COURTESY PHOTOLinda Lavin brings her cabaret act to San Francisco this week.

There’s a sturdy pragmatism to Linda Lavin’s conversational style that will likely come across in her song-and-story evening at Feinstein’s at the Nikko this week.

A daughter of Maine, Lavin achieved her broadest-reaching success with the 1976 series “Alice,” developed from the film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” starring Ellen Burstyn. The sitcom’s title song was “There’s a New Girl In Town” and was performed by Lavin, who had made a splash in musicals on Broadway and off a decade earlier.

Asked how she plans to cover a 60-plus year career in 90 minutes, she laughs. “Quickly!” She’ll have help from celebrated music director-pianist Billy Stritch. “It feels like a party and that’s what I want,” says Lavin. “I also work with my husband who’s my drummer.“

The drummer is artist-musician Steve Bakunas. The couple married in 2005 and decided to sink roots in the coastal community of Wilmington, N.C. “I’m very grateful for the time that we spent there and what we created there, including a theater we ran for five years that is still running.”

The facility was loaned to another theater company. Bakunas also helped rebuild housing in the neighborhood and the couple started a foundation for inner city teen girls. “Wilmington gave me a very full, abundant life of giving service and being part of a community,” says Lavin.

It was during that time Lavin scored her fourth Tony Award nomination for “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” by good friend Charles Busch, who follows Lavin at Feinstein’s next week. She was with the show for almost two years, followed by three more productions and two more Tony nominations – “Collected Stories” with Sarah Paulson and “The Lyons” by Nicky Silver. “With the back and forth of it, it became more sensible to just commit to New York and live here,” says Lavin.

She renewed her professional relationship with playwright Silver in a bespoke role this spring. She says, “It was called Too Much Sun’ at the Vineyard Theatre. I love his writing. I love that he gets me and knows how to write for me and I know how to enjoy his writing, his characters.”

Back at the cabaret, Lavin says that the evening will include nods to her musical theater career – she followed Tyne Daly as Rose in the 1989 revival of “Gypsy” – but “it’s not a collection of Broadway tunes. It is a lot of American standards with a jazz twist among some of them and a Brazilian twist in others. It’s really a nightclub act for people who love the American songbook.”


Linda Lavin

Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday

Tickets: $45 to $60

Contact: (866) 663-1063,

artscabaretFeinstein’s at the NikkoLinda Lavin

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