A POPPIN’ RETURN: Broadway actress and former Wilmingtonian Linda Lavin performs with the WSO by Teresa McLamb, LOL contributor
Tony and Golden Globe award-winning performer Linda Lavin returns to Wilmington in February to join forces with Wilmington Symphony Orchestra at the Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center as part of Symphony Pops! It will be her third appearance with the orchestra, an event she is very much anticipating, with conductor Steven Errante leading the helm.
“Steven’s orchestrations are exciting and highly energized,” Lavin told LOL in an interview in mid January. “I’m very excited. I will be singing songs I grew up with, songs I’ve sung and songs I wish I had sung. I’m telling the story of my life.”
Lavin will take on tunes from The Great American Songbook, plus global sounds, which will feature a few Brazilian tunes. Lavin’s set will include tunes from her latest CD, “Possibilities.” Released on Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight Records, the record highlights tracks Lavin sang in her nightclub act over the years, including “Deed I Do,” “Two for the Road” and “The Song Remembers When.”
Best known for her work on the ’70s sitcom, “Alice,” Lavin’s career soared once she began acting on Broadway. Her performances onstage have led to critical acclaim, including a Tony for her performance in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound.”
After landing a role alongside Mary Tyler Moore in ” Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden,” a TV movie that filmed in Wilmington, Lavin called Port City home for 17 years. She injected a multitude of talent into our arts scene after opening the Red Barn Studio Theatre on Third Street in 2007. She and her husband Steve Bakunas curated thought-provoking and groundbreaking productions, from classics like Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” to original works, like local Owen Dunn’s “Positions.”
“I made a beautiful life in Wilmington,” Lavin said. She and Bakunas bought several houses around the theatre in an effort to spruce up the neighborhood. Today it continues to boom, from the construction of South Front Apartments to the opening of surrounding restaurants and bars. Lavin and Bakunas also donated land they owned nearby to the city.
“We were grateful to give service and participate in the growth of the community, which gave us so much opportunity to create and develop and have a wonderful life,” Lavin noted. “For that I am always and eternally grateful.”
Lavin’s jazz band will accompany her symphony performance, including bassist Tom Hubbard, jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein and her husband, who also is the drummer. Weinstein and Bakunas will perform a Cole Porter–inspired duet. “He performs with me everywhere I go,” she praised of Weinstein. “He’s just mind blowingly exciting to listen to and watch.”
The band will be led by pianist and music director Billy Stritch—who last played the Wilson Center with Liza Minnelli when it officially opened to the community in 2015. “Wilmington knows Billy very well,” Lavin said. Yet, this will be Lavin’s first time at the performing arts center. “I hear great things about the acoustics, and the hall is very successful in its appreciation of the performing arts.”
As part of the production, conductor Steven Errante will debut new arrangements. “[He’s] an extraordinarily gifted and generous musician.” Lavin said. “We want the show to feel like a party.”
Also performing will be the winners of WSO’s 40th annual Richard R. Deas Student Concerto Competition: Quentin Lovett (UNCW division winner) and David Cheng (voice and high school division winner). Lovette is a senior at UNCW pursuing a B.M. in music education. Cheng is a freshman attending Hoggard High school and has played piano for 10 years.
While her life has been rife with opportunity and creative output—and very much still is—Lavin doesn’t look to a slate of projects to check off someday. She stays focused on the here and now.
“I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing,” she divulged. “I just closed an extraordinary experience with the New York City Opera, in which I appeared in a very famous role in a very famous opera directed by the very famous Hal Prince. I never thought I would be singing opera in an opera company. I don’t have a bucket list; I create a list by showing up for things I’m invited to do.”
Symphony Pops with Linda Lavin and the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra
Sat., Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
CFCC Wilson Center • 703 N 3rd St.