On November 18 & 19, Lucie Arnaz performed two sensational shows as part of Jim Caruso's “Broadway At Birdland” Series to sold-out, star-studded audiences which included Danny Aiello, Robert Klein, Tommy Tune, Tony Roberts and David Zippel. Lucie's musical director/arranger of 20 years, Ron Abel, was on piano and headed the band of talented musicians: Lisa Lemay on synthesizer, Aaron Heick on reeds, Brian Nalepka on bass, Steve Samuel on drums and Joe Luckinbill on guitar.
Lucie came on stage looking stunning in a lovely short black dress singing a swinging version of Ron Abel & Chuck Steffan's “Until Now”, then into a medley of “Walkin' After Midnight” and, appropriately enough, “Lullaby of Birdland”. She said that music has been her “tonic through the years” and that the evening would be an eclectic mix of songs. Her impeccable musical taste came from listening to the romantic songs of her father's orchestra (The Desi Arnaz Orchestra) as a child and seeing her stepfather, the comedian Gary Morton, open for many popular singing stars. All this was part of Lucie's education of learning the popular songs of the day and meeting many legendary composers. She loves the standards but is also interested in new songs and those that tell “little stories” that can be acted out.
This show was indeed a family affair. They say, “the apple doesn't fall far from the tree”. In the case of Lucie Arnaz, this is very true. She was born into show business royalty being the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. However, she is very much her own person and performer. Lucie is a super talented singer, actress, dancer and all around entertainer. This musical talent is also evident in her son, Joe Luckinbill, who played the guitar in the band and performed two of his original songs. Her beautiful daughter Katharine, who just graduated from college, sang the definitive version of Heisler & Goldrich's “Taylor, The Latte Boy,” followed by a terrific slow jazz arrangement of “If I Only Had A Brain” (Arlen & Harburg). Then both mother and daughter wowed the audience with a duet tribute to their Cuban heritage of “Cuando Se Quiera”. Her oldest son, Simon, couldn't attend as he was in Oregon, but played congas in her last show. She later introduced her husband of 27 years, the esteemed actor Lawrence Luckinbill, who came to the edge of the stage to give her an admiring kiss.
David Friedman, the renowned contemporary composer, was called to the stage and sat at the piano to accompany Lucie on two of his songs - the riotous “My Simple Christmas Wish” which allowed Lucie to bring out her comedic side and the anthem of encouragement “Help Is On The Way”.
As a surprise, famed comedian Robert Klein, who co-starred with Lucie in the award winning 1979 Broadway show “They're Playing Our Song,” was called to the stage. They performed a scene and song from the show, the tender “If You Really Knew Me” and Lucie then sang a bang-up solo rendition of the title song.
There were many highlights in this evening including a “revenge” song that Lucie wrote the lyrics to with music by Madeline Stone called “What'll I Do Without You?” There was a wonderful medley arranged by Billy Stritch of “It's All Right With Me” with “Something's Got To Give” that showed off the fine musicians backing her, and another Ron Abel and Chuck Steffan song “Forever's All We Know” that Lucie sang quietly sitting on the piano.
Lucie talked about her career and the choices she made to be with her family that her agents and managers didn't always like. The woman in Craig Carnelia's remarkable “Just A Housewife” is her hero and the poignant characterization she created in this acting monologue proved her point. Toward the end of the show Lucie sang “Leader of the Band” (Dan Fogelberg), a moving tribute to her father, Desi, who brought music into her life as he sang all the time and was considered a genius. Lucie held his trademark straw hat in her hand and sang to it. At the end of the song, she put the hat on her head and tilted it downward as the lights went out. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
The closing number was the lively and excitingly rhythmic “Cumbachero” and Lucie moved to the Latin beat. Of course, the audience was not going to let her go and clamored for an encore. Lucie returned to thunderous applause and, before singing, mentioned that people always ask her why she doesn't do a tribute to her mother - but she certainly couldn't do a medley of her hits! However, Lucille Ball did star in Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's Broadway show Wildcat. She felt that the hit song from that show belonged to her mother and never sang it. Lucie decided it was now time and she sang an outstanding rendition of “Hey, Look Me Over,” making this the perfect ending to a perfect show!
Lucie said she is asked a lot if her parents encouraged or discouraged her from show business. Her response is that they supported whatever passion she had at the time, whether it be tennis, music or whatever. This probably gave her the freedom to explore her own unique talents and become the woman she is today, someone who has honed her craft over the years and doesn't just sing her songs but acts them out and knows how to entertain her audience. She is spontaneous, charming, funny and made the Birdland audience feel as though they were in her living room. When you hear that Lucie Arnaz is performing somewhere, run…. do not walk, to see this consummate performer and artist.
Lucie Arnaz at Birdland
November 18 & 19, 2007
Linda Amiel Burns
Founder and Director of The Singing Experience, popular cabaret and musical theater performance workshops since 1977, have been featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood and, recently, the subject of a profile in BackStage by David Finkle. Linda is a sought after vocal coach & director and has written, booked and directed hundreds of cabaret aacts, was the 2007 MAC nominee as “Best Director”. She produces and stars in The Singing Experience Cable TV Show on MNN and RCN and is President Of The New York Sheet Music Society (http://www.NYSMS.org .) and a Trustee of Arts Horizons, which brings art programs to schools. (http://www.artshorizons.org ).
E-mail: SingLAB@aol.com Website: http://www.SingingExperience.com 212 315-3500