For most people, Linda Lavin will always be Alice from the TV show of the same name: a widowed, would-be singer who found a home and family at Mel’s Diner. But she’s more than a one-hit wonder — even if that hit ran for nine seasons.
Lavin is also an accomplished jazz singer who performs at nightclubs around the country. Along with her husband Steve Bakunas, a drummer who plays in her band, she converted a garage into the 50-seat Red Barn Studio Theatre in Wilmington, N.C., where the couple lives when not on the road. “Possibilities,” her new album of jazz standards, is now out, and in May she’ll be appearing at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan.
But that’s not enough for Lavin, 74, who stars in “The Lyons,” a Broadway musical that opens April 23 at the Cort Theater after a successful run off-Broadway. She spoke to The Arty Semite about how she came to take the role, growing up in Portland, Maine (where her parents founded the Conservative synagogue and a YMHA) and her characters’ DNA.
Curt Schleier: You starred in the production of “Follies” that debuted at the Kennedy Center last year and in “Other Desert Cities” at Lincoln Center Theater. Both moved to Broadway, but you chose to play matriarch Rita Lyons in a limited-run off-Broadway production. Why?