I came away from Lucie Arnaz‘s concert at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre with a blissed-out feeling of elation. An invigorating combination of sheer professionalism and pure show-biz panache were the hallmarks of this extremely well-produced show. Opening with a video screen that shot down from the ceiling, the audience was alternately both enthralled and amused by the mix of visuals portraying Ms. Arnaz in her many film and television roles. Soon afterwards, Arnaz strode out on stage in a stunning black dress to sing a rousing and edgy cover of “Lulu’s Back in Town” with a slightly smoky and sensuous vibrato. Arnaz possesses an ebullient, open singing style that is very unique in that she belts with the best of them in her clear velvety tones yet she holds back just enough to maintain an air of polished technique and sophistication.
Arnaz showed an engaging and quicksilver rapport with the audience and jumped around a cascade of topics from appearing in the film Billy Jack Goes to Washington working as a Senator’s aide, performing for Presidents Jimmy Carter and President Herbert Walker Bush, performing for President Obama in a show that was cancelled, performing at the Mark Twain Award for playwright Neil Simon and comedienne Carol Burnett, and admitting that she does not look like either of her famous parents. With a deadpan – almost surrealistic – sense of humor, Arnaz continued to engage as she sang the witty comedic patter song “Lucie with an I-E.”
Arnaz showed great pride and affection for her three-piece band as she introduced them early on and interacted with them throughout the show. Musical Director and pianist Ron Abel set the tone and Arnaz admitted that she and Abel enjoyed taking songs and giving them entirely new arrangements. Tom Hubbard on Bass and Julie Jacobs on Drums certainly added to the splendor of the arrangements. A moving and still quality permeated Arnaz’s rendition of “Slow Dancing.” This number was followed by one of the most distinctively original medleys I have ever heard: the catchy country song “Walkin’ After Midnight” intertwined with the jazz-infused “Lullabye of Birdland.” The combination of these two numbers sounds like a musical impossibility yet Arnaz and her band made this audacious and unique arrangement the highpoint of the concert.
Arnaz continued her highly original show with a concurrently angry,defiant and yet comedic take on the pain of a break-up with a partner entitled “View from Here.” Arnaz wrote the song herself and admitted that she enjoys writing tremendously – especially when she is depressed. Arnaz then sang a very humorous version of the past popular commercial hit “To All the Boys” and introduced her husband of thirty-three years, actor Laurence Luckinbill. Thoughout the evening, Arnaz spoke engagingly of the discipline needed to raise her own immediate family within the hothouse climate of fame and famous parents. These reflections lead nicely into the domestic complexities of the song “Just a Housewife.”
In a change of pace, Arnaz sang her famous standard “They’re Playing My Song” (from Marvin Hamlisch’s hit Broadway musical of the same name that she starred in) from the viewpoint of her beloved friend and musical mentor, the late and lamented composer Marvin Hamlisch. New pathos and meaning was added to this popular Broadway standard as Arnaz sang a poignant version of this song – as Hamlisch himself would have sung it standing at the ‘pearly gates.’
Arnaz started the concluding aspects of her concert with a sensitive medley of the song “Always” and “I Still Believe In Love” while a tear-inducing nostalgic video montage of filmed home movies of her parents, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball,and her as a child with her brother played in the background. She spoke fondly of the influence her father had on her by bringing music and musicians into her life growing up and she saluted him by singing the reflective song “Leader of the Band” only to follow up even more strongly with the robust and flashy Latin beats of the song “Cumbanchero.”
Arnaz wrapped up this special evening with the song “Hey! Look Me Over” as a tribute to her beloved mother, Lucille Ball. Ball had made this a hit in her one and only Broadway musical Wildcat and Arnaz sang a joyous rendition of this popular standard. She then returned to the strains of this beloved song for her encore, as she bowed to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Barbara Cook’s Spotlight: Lucie Arnaz was performed for one-night-only on Friday, November 8, 2013 at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For future events, check their calendar of events.
Lucie Arnaz’s website.