2/28/14 (Fri), Las Vegas
When I was looking for shows to catch in Las Vegas, I was surprised to find Lainie Kazan. I didn’t even know she was still singing, but I figured she’d be a fun link back to Vegas in its heyday. It turned out that the show was not on the Strip but in the relatively new Civic Center. We had a table in the very last row, and we were lucky to get that since she’s sold out for both nights. The crowd was unsurprisingly very old, though I guess I’m not too far behind given that I remember her from the old days. One friend knew her from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and a few TV shows but had never heard her sing, while the other was just along for the ride.
She is older and rather heavier than in her days on “The Dean Martin Show”, and her voice doesn’t want to go to the heights that she strained to take it to. She needs to adjust her repertory to reality. But her song choices were interesting, mostly of the standards variety, and her patter was great fun. She offered some choice stories from her interesting life. The show opened with a video montage of her life and career against her recording of “A Song to You”, after which she appeared and did an upbeat rendition of “Come Rain Or Come Shine”. There were some bumps along the way: she forgot some lyrics despite having them in front of her, and at the end of the show, she lost her place after a bit of ad-libbing and had to start the entire song over. There were some odd bits as well. She sang the intro to “Isn’t It Romantic”, one of my favorites, but attached it to “My Funny Valentine”; she made the dodgy claim that “I’ve Never Been to Me” was written for her, which I can’t verify anywhere; she gave a strange breathy version of “If You Go Away”, which she claims to have been the first to sing after lyricist Rod McKuen (presumably meaning in English, since Jacques Brel had been singing the French original for some time); and she wrongly stated that Sophie Tucker had a hand in writing “Some of These Days”.
Even so, all that was easily outweighed by the good. She sang songs like she believed in them, and if she pushed it way beyond her (and our) comfort zone on occasion, she still has great timing and style. The highlight for me was a terrific rendition of “The Music That Makes Me Dance” from her days as Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl understudy, along with a funny background story on that show (though she should probably retire “Don’t Rain on My Parade”). She also did memorable versions of songs associated with her idol Judy Garland: The Trolley Song (nice!), a heartfelt The Man That Got Away and the inevitable Over the Rainbow, supposedly because Judy sang that specifically for her at a party. I liked the combination of “Love” and “Falling in Love with Love”, a beautiful “I Remember You”, and a spirited closing with a Sophie Tucker number called “Living Alone and I Like It”. A fun show.