Barbara and Scott
The Two of Clubs

Steven Lutvak: Having "The Times" of His Life

There is a time Ė one hopes Ė in the life of an entertainer that defines their ascendancy. Looking back, they can see where their career took off. Weíre not talking about the moment of discovery; weíre talking about that flash of light that turns a working artist into a star. It just happened for composer/singer/entertainer Steven Lutvak. He had one of those remarkable weeks that neither he (nor his parents) will ever forget.

Letís begin with Lutvakís regular monthly gig at The Duplex down in The Village. He plays the last Friday of every month, highlighting his own music. His recent shows have consisted of his trunk songs plus a variety of recent tunes that are taken from the scores of musicals heís writing that are in various stages of development. An award-winning artist, heís not without his loyal following and a box full of great reviews. Even Time Magazine cited him as an entertainer on the rise. And now he has risen ... Lutvak got a rave review in the NY Times on Wednesday, April 5th. But thatís not all - the day before that, on Tuesday April 4th, he was informed that he and his writing partner, Robert Freedman, had won a Kleban Award for their lyrics (splitting a prize between them of $50,000). The day after the Times review came out, he presented his musical (written with Freedman), Kind Hearts and Coronets, in a staged reading at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston as part of its Breaking Ground series with a cast that included Douglas Sills, Nancy Anderson, Jill Paice, and Jonathan Hadley. If that isnít a career trifecta, what is?

We talked with Lutvak the night of his staged reading. It was late, after the celebratory party that followed. Exhausted from the incredible events of the week, yet happily afloat, we centered our discussion on the pivotal NY Times review.

Q: Did you know that The Times was coming to your show?
A: Phil Bond, the booking manager of The Duplex, asked me if I wanted to know if Stephen Holden was coming to my show. I said yes.

Q: Once you knew, did you do anything different?
A: I rehearsed a lot more than I usually do. But Iíve been doing this for a long time.

Q: Knowing that this could be a watershed moment for you, were you nervous?
A: It was exciting, knowing that he was there. In some visceral way, I felt that it was right that he was going to see me know. I felt secure because no matter what happened I knew that I was going to be singing on Friday and the NY Times was going to hear me sing and I was leaving on Sunday to workshop my musical in Boston. And I thought, boy, thatís quite a life.

Q: So everything wasnít hanging on a NY Times review?
A: Right.

Q: Could you see Stephen Holden in the audience when you were performing?
A: Yes.

Q: From your perspective, how did the show go that night?
A: I felt really good even though I went up on the lyrics a couple of times. [laughs] I inverted a lyric in "Museums" and I liked it. But it so threw me that I went up on the next lyric.

Q: Stephen Holden specifically cited "Museums" in his review. He clearly liked it a lot. In fact, he obviously liked everything that you did. What was it like to read that review?
A: I read it at 4 AM. I woke up and wondered if it was online. It was. I hope this doesnít come out wrong, but I thought he got me. But itís very strange to read about yourself in the NY Times. [laughs] I thought the picture was terrific! That really, really pleased me.

Q: What kind of reaction have you had from the review?
A: I got phone calls from people I havenít heard from in a hundred years. Iíve gotten calls from important Hollywood producers and directors because of the Times piece. Itís amazing, the power of the Times.

Q: So, Tuesday the Kleban Award, Wednesday the NY Times rave, Thursday, a staged reading of your play with an all-star cast. Whatís Friday?
A: I go home tomorrow and clean my apartment.

Note: Steven Lutvak can be seen the last Friday of every month at The Duplex through June.

A Reason to Leave Town This Weekend

The generation that grew up with The Beatles has always known that there was something special in a Lennon/McCartney lyric. What Lucille Carr-Kaffashan has done in her splendid cabaret act, In My Life, A Celebration of Beatles Music, is make crystal clear that their songs have a depth of meaning that goes far beyond the limited intellectual appeal of pop.

It doesnít take a psychologist to know that "We Can Work Out" is a perceptive song about couple therapy. It just so happens though that Carr-Kaffashan is a psychologist and she gives a particularly sensitive reading of these lyrics. But then she always gets under the surface of these often familiar songs, finding their emotional underpinnings and giving us their soulful expression. When she sings "Iím Looking Through You," you know she really is doing just that.

Carr-Kaffashan has a clear, bright voice that feels just right when she sings these carefully arranged songs (her excellent musical director and pianist is David Brunetti). Bob Einfrank is on guitar Ė youíve got to have a guitar Ė and the old rock Ďní roll sounds sweet when all three of them combine on songs like "She Loves You," "Help," and "Yesterday."

A lovely show with intelligent patter, it is, indeed, a cause for "celebration."

Lucille Carr-Kaffashan is next appearing with this show at Odettes in New Hope, PA this weekend, Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.

-- Barbara and Scott Siegel

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