Lucie Arnaz: I Got the Job! Songs from My Musical Past

Lucie Arnaz

I Got the Job! Songs from My Musical Past

Musical Instrument Museum Music Theatre, Phoenix, AZ, March 4, 2024

Reviewed by Lynn Timmons Edwards

Born into show business royalty, Lucie Arnaz is the definition of a working singer/actor. Her most recent cabaret focuses on her reflection of her working life going back to the six years (1968-74) during which she co-starred with her mother Lucille Ball on Here’s Lucy. Her mother’s best friend Vivian Vance mentored her and gave her the confidence to go after anything she dreamed of doing. Her love of Broadway goes back to 1960 when the nine-year-old watched her mother star in Wildcat. Ball built a stage in the family’s garage where a who’s who of Beverly Hills neighbors came around to see the young thespians.

Arnaz opened with the verse from Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” coupled with “A Lot of Livin’ to Do.” Arnaz has her own sound that I would describe as “a middle-mix Broadway belt that is easy on the ear.” She chose songs that she loves, and the best ones came from her work on Broadway and in national tours. She appeared in the national tour of Seesaw with Michael Bennett (the year before he created A Chorus Line), and offered what I think is the best song from the show, “Poor Everybody Else.” She is every bit her mother’s comedienne, telling stories in an extemporaneous style with timing and facial expressions that cannot be rehearsed and come from natural talent.

Arnaz has been married to Lawrence Luckenbill since 1980, and their blended family has five children and three grandchildren. That does not stop her from taking her show on the road at age 72. She looks healthy, much younger than her age, and she glides across the stage alternating between standing at the mic or holding it while she looks directly at the audience.

She spent the summer of 1978 at the Jones Beach Playhouse starring with Harve Presnell in Annie Get Your Gun, during which time she auditioned for the lead in a new Broadway show based on the real-life partnership of Carole Bayer Sager (lyrics) and Marvin Hamlisch (music). As she launched into that show’s title song, “They’re Playing Our Song,” I was taken back to the original production; Arnaz is still absolutely perfect in the part. She could not say enough nice things about Hamlisch’s wit and generosity, and she credited him with teaching her to respect the instrument that she had been given. I suspect that the seeds of her brilliant cabaret skill were planted during that time. She cracked up the audience with her story about the Broadway previews of the show. Hamlisch and Sager tried to change the 11 o’clock number, but they eventually come back to the original, “I Believe in Love,” which Arnaz delivered using the perfect heartfelt belt. She won the Theatre World Award and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle for Best Actress for her portrayal of the lead character, Sonia Walsk.

In 1999, she moved to London to perform in John Dempsey’s musical based on the film The Witches of Eastwick for 18 months. I admit I had never heard anything from the show, and she delivered the hysterical character song “Who’s the Man,” which was replaced as the show was evolved. She also sang the more serious “Loose Ends.” Both songs work as standalone cabaret songs. “What Was a Woman to Do” (from Dirty Rotten Scandals) sat perfectly in her voice. In 2006, she had replaced Joanna Gleason in that show on Broadway. One of her funniest moments came when she sang “Wherever He Ain’t” from her work in a revival of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s Mack and Mabel. She has the gift of song-speak and delivers every lyric conversationally and right on pitch.

Arnaz collaborated with Tommy Tune a few times, including opposite him in a production of the Gershwin musical of My One and Only. From that show, she gave us the Gershwin classic “Nice Work if You Can Get It,” not as a jazz tune but as a character-driven piece of musical theater, and she gave her brilliant music director and accompanist Ron Abel credit for the arrangement. Abel has his own litany of musical theater credentials; he was the composer of Hazel, A Musical Maid in America that starred Klea Blackhurst and which premiered in Chicago in 2016. Arnaz directed the early workshops of the piece, and she passionately delivered a song sung by Hazel, who (unlike the TV character) finds a love of her own. Before making her recent cabaret appearances, she had spent seven months in the national tour of the acrobatic revival of Pippin (Stephen Schwartz), and she closed with her tour de force “Time to Start Living.” After thanking Abel and the MIM staff, she came full circle by ending her show with a reprise of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Lynn Timmons Edwards

Lynn writes and performs themed cabaret shows based on the songs of the Great American Songbook throughout Arizona. She has had three short plays produced in the Theatre Artists Studio Festival of Summer Shorts and is working on a full length play, "Fairy," based on the life of Mary Russell Ferrell Colton, a founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. In addition to writing and singing, Lynn plays bridge and tennis and enjoys traveling with her husband and artistic companion, Bob. Born in Ohio, Lynn is a graduate of Denison University (BA), Arizona State University (MPA) and has lived in Arizona since 1977.