PITTSFIELD -- Linda Lavin promised an informal party atmosphere along with the story of her life in music and patter, and that's exactly what the actress and singer delivered Monday evening to a full house of her admirers on the Boyd-Quinson Stage at Barrington Stage Company.
Lavin's show was among the cabaret programs and other events that blend nicely into the full summer season at Barrington Stage. In fact, Lavin and her quintet of musicians fit very snugly into the set of the company's current main stage production of "On the Town" with its winsome silhouette of the Manhattan skyline.
Lavin's biographical journey in song obviously was assembled very carefully: She appears to know the parameters of her matured vocal instrument -- aware of when and how to soar, belt, scat or apply the brakes of softness. And she had the very good sense to engage a first-rate musical director, Billy Stritch, who is able to assist in her selections, guide her through those numbers, share vocals, harmonize and tender gentle back-up when essential.
She's also fortunate in the sidemen she employs: John Hart on guitar, Tom Hubbard, bass, and Steve Bakunas, drums, all of whom had a chance in the solo spotlight throughout the evening. And, displaying a little more panache than a lot of cabaret acts, Lavin introduced a gentleman she called her special guest, Aaron Weinstein. Far too innocent looking, clad in a dark blazer and bow tie, Weinstein plays opulent jazz riffs on his violin, a talent made especially clear after the sound balance was adjusted.
Stritch began the show with his own vocal prelude on "The Best Is Yet to Come," and then Lavin sashayed out in a glittering black gown, addressing the audience flirtatiously in a medley of "I've Got My Eyes on You" and "You Do Something to Me."
Thereafter, she didn't mince many words in describing the tough climb up from Greenwich Village clubs -- always in the basement, she complained -- where the pay was low and conditions far from easy, to Miami Beach, where the pay became little betterm -- nor did conditions -- and a harridan of a nightclub owner forced the artists to perform three-shows-a-night whether any customers occupied the tables.
"Between Raindrops," a somber ballad, seemed to summarize the rather doleful Miami experience for Lavin except for the time she said she met Lenny Bruce on the beach, and he listened and encouraged her.
Lavin recalled her first big Broadway break in the Charles Strouse/Lee Adams musical "It's a Bird It's a Plane It's Superman," in which she virtually undressed Superman/Clark Kent with the very seductive tune, "You've Got Possibilities." The tune became a hit outside the show's failures and emerged as the title of her first CD and Monday evening's show.
Lavin embraced a couple of songs by Antônio Carlos Jobim, including an hilarious parody of Astrud Gilberto intoning a spiritless "Girl From Ipanema."
She appeared genuinely touched by the presence at her show of William Finn, the Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist and director of the company's Musical Theater Lab.
Lavin also introduced and dedicated the Jobim song, "No More Blues," to the two builders who developed a new home in the hills above the Taconic State Parkway for her and drummer Bakunas, who also is her husband. It was that kind of night -- happiness and good cheer all around, and a crowd to appreciate it.