Lainie Kazan has been singing and acting for decades in a dazzling career that first drew major attention when the statuesque beauty was cast as one the Ziegfeld Follies showgirls in the cast of the Broadway production of Funny Girl, especially when she was finally called to go on in the lead role, being understudy to fellow Brooklynite Barbra Streisand. Soon, she made the first of 26 appearances on Dean Martin’s TV variety show, was appearing her own nightclub acts, and had a recording contract with MGM Records. Her first album was called Right Now! and the most recent was titled In the Groove. Right now, she’s still in the groove and poised to make what is now a rare New York City club appearance at the Iridium on Broadway on West 51st Street, next to the Winter Garden Theatre where Funny Girl played. But her musical theatre experience on Broadway actually began in the year 400 BC—that is to say, in a musical set in that year, The Happiest Girl in the World, back in 1961 and based on a tale from ancient Greek lore. Greek heritage figured into the plot years later with one of Lainie’s most memorable movie roles as a mother in cross-cultural chaos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, reprised in a TV series spinoff and the movie sequel from earlier this year. In another role reprisal from one medium to another, she recreated her movie role in My Favorite Year in the later Broadway musical adaptation. Although stage roles and movie and TV appearances aplenty have filled her calendar over the years, it’s Lainie the classic nightclub singer singing classic songs taking center stage at the Iridium. Her shows will be at 7:30 on October 18, 19, and 20, with two shows a night on the final two evenings, Friday and Saturday October 21 and 22, with start times of 7 and 9:30.
While movie fans might know her best from such projects as One from the Heart, Beaches, Harry and the Hendersons, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Bratz, Delta Force, Lust in the Dust, The Crew, The Cemetery Club, etc., and regional theatre-goers have heard in musical theatre pieces including A Little Night Music, The Rink, Man of La Mancha, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and Hello, Dolly!, many will always think of her first and foremost in a solo spotlight as a scintillating lady with a sizzling song. Lainie has performed in nightclubs, grand hotels, and concert halls around the world. Once upon a memorable time, she partnered with Hugh Hefner and opened Lainie’s Room and Lainie’s Room East at the L.A. and N.Y.C. Playboy Clubs. In recent years, her nightclub appearances have included the RRazz Room in San Francisco, the Catalina and Cinegrille in L.A., and in Manhattan at Feinstein’s/54 Below and the earlier location of Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency. She won a Bistro Award for Lifetime Achievement, an honor named for the late cabaret reviewer Bob Harrington.
Her other lifetime achievements include being a mother —in real life, in addition to her many mom roles on big and small screens— and grandmother, being active in AIDS charity work, and is currently in her fourth year as Adjunct Professor at the School of Theater, Film, and Television at U.C.L.A, teaching Acting for the Singer, a class culminating in its students’ cabaret show. Those who CAN do, teach, and this can-do dynamo will show it all in a show that will bring fans old and new of old-school nightclub pizzazz to the Iridium in for the seven performances in October for the Kazan plan of long-schooled smarts in dazzling entertainment.