A CONVERSATION WITH LUCIE ARNAZ – This Week At The Rrazz Room

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, brings her new show to the Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko, Tuesday through Sunday, December 8th–13th.
“An Evening with Lucie Arnaz,” features Lucie singing everything from jazz to Broadway, taking her fans on a musical tour of her life. She began her long career in a recurring role during six seasons of The Lucy Show, opposite her mother, Lucille Ball. At age fifteen, she became a series regular on Here’s Lucy, and starred in her own series, The Lucie Arnaz Show and later in the critically acclaimed Sons & Daughters on CBS. Sunday afternoon Lucie and I talked about her show just shortly after she arrived in San Francisco and checked in.

Lucie: It’s kind of an eclectic evening – American standards, jazz, new tunes. It’s a trio with great arrangements. It’s a little more Latin-based than we might normally do. This time I’m putting in some of the new album that’s going to be released by the end of this year called “Latin Roots”. My show doesn’t have a theme, it’s just an evening of good music. I like to be flexible so we can change things. It’s easier to do the shows when you don’t have to pinpoint exactly what it is.

Seán: On your up-coming schedule I understand you’ll be in New York performing songs arranged by your dad’s orchestra.

Lucie: I was asked by the Lyric and Lyricists Series in New York City if I would open the season with a tribute to the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. It’s a celebration of the Latin Music craze of the ‘40s and ‘50s. We got into this big conversation about what happens to some of the great arrangements of some people’s orchestras after they pass away. Usually they just end up in somebody’s garage. I gave my dad’s orchestrations to the Library of Congress. So, I said that I would be interested in looking into that idea.

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Lucie: My musical director, Ron Abel, and I spent three days at the Library of Congress going through all my dad’s charts and seeing what was really there – the song list, the keys, what parts were still available. We put together all the extreme possibilities and came back and formulated a show for them. Now we have 2-hours of what should be an amazing evening of music – all my dad’s charts. We’re going to have a 17-piece band, which they never do. But, you have to if you want to do those charts and as written for those instruments. My brother is flying in as a special guest star to play percussion. Raul Esparza is in the show singing a lot of the Desi stuff. I’m absolutely thrilled that he wants to do it.

Seán: Will one of the songs be, “I Get Ideas”?

Lucie: You know, it’s not going to be one of those we do. [Seán laughs, “Oh, no!”] I can’t remember if it’s because there weren’t enough parts. It’s so expensive to do this as it is that we tried to not include anything where parts of the full chart had been lost. Unless it was something we really had to include, like “Cuban Pete”. Its parts were completely missing, so we had to take that one and start from scratch based on recordings.

Seán: As long as it’s there! Such a great song. Also, the variation – “They call me Sally Sweet, I’m the Queen of Delancy Street”. Will you throw that part in as well?

Lucie: Well, no, because it was not part of the Desi Arnaz Orchestra per se. That was for I Love Lucy. The show is not really a tribute to the songs from I Love Lucy. My father used a lot of his tunes on the show, incorporating them when the “Ricky Ricardo Orchestra” was playing. But this show will be the real thing.

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Seán: How does it feel to go into the Library of Congress and handle all of that material?

Lucie: I had given it to them about a decade ago. It was nice to see how well organized it is over there. Depending on the song title, you can look it all up. They have it logged-in for how exactly how many parts there are. It was helpful for us to have done this because we found some mistakes. So, they were able to make a better detailed list after we’d worked on it for three days. It was really hard work, an all-day thing. Literally, from the moment they opened the doors until an hour after they shut the doors. And running back and forth to the piano, determining the keys. It was exhausting – but miraculous. I’d had those charts in my garage for ten years before I gave them to the Library of Congress. I had used a couple of the them – “Cumbanchero” and “Santiago, Chile” – but I hadn’t really looked through the rest of them that much. There’s just a wealth of material there with beautiful arrangements. Some of them are so old! You can see that they’ve been handled for years by this band. It’s fabulous. It’s the music that inspired me.

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DESI ARNAZ

Lucie: Twenty years ago, after my dead passed away, I was listening to the tapes. That’s what made me want to go into this side of the business.So, it’s come full circle – which is why it’s kind of great for me. And! Oddly enough, I might never have heard any of the recordings from those early shows which were recorded live – except for an archivist and terrific fan of my dad, Edward Maffei. He sent my dad all these fantastic recordings on three cassette tapes. I found them after dad died. I would just go around listening to these tapes for hours and hours and thinking ‘this stuff is so great, these arrangements are marvelous!’ Who wouldn’t want to sing this stuff? That’s what inspired me to – in-between doing Broadway shows and TV – to put a nightclub act together. That’s why I have one now.

Seán: In your performing career, was there a pivotal moment when you knew you were being hired for your particular talents and not because of your heritage?

Lucie: Other than the fact that I was on my mother’s show – clearly, you can’t kid yourself that you got this job for any other reason than your mother said, “You can do this part.” That was six years of tremendous education in this business. But after that, I never got the sense that I had been given a job strictly because of who I was. I had to audition for things like anybody else. I think I got jobs because I had a TV name. I was in a hit television series for six years. That’s the way you get work. If you’re in something, people want to have you. I think the first time I got a job for real was when I did another show. I went away from the Here’s Lucy show and did a Marcus Welby or a dramatic part in a serious show or doing Cabaret in summerstock. You audition for something and you get it – it’s like, “OK, now I’m on my own.”

Seán: Do you have a favorite role among all those experiences?

Lucie: I have several. They’re like your children – it’s hard to pick. It’s easier to say there were certain shows or plays that didn’t go over as well as you thought. As far as the ones that did – there’s My One and Only with Tommy Tune. We were here in San Francisco in 1986.

Seán: I saw that production. You were fabulous.

Lucie: It was one of my favorite things ever, because of all the dancing. I loved playing “Maria Callas” in Master Class because it was a real tour de force. “Bella” in Lost In Yonkers was another whole stream. They’re Playing Our Song and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels top the list. Actually, the first show I ever did was Seesaw (the National Company). Michael Bennett directed it. The role of “Gittel Mosca” – parts don’t get better than that. And Annie Get Your Gun! Please! I’ve had the chance to play some really great roles.

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Seán: Besides the family circle, who are your musical heroes? Along the way, who kept you inspired to keep going?

Lucie: Lots of people, lots of people! Lena Horne, Rosie Clooney, even Wayne Newton. He was such a showman. I remember watching the way he would perform, how he was with an audience, and just the ease of how he did what he did. I was just in awe of him. There’s a roster of people – Steve Lawrence and Edie Gormé! Then there’s the Rock ‘n Roll Top 40-type in 1960. Frankie Avalon, Lesley Gore, The Beatles, the Dave Clark Five. I was a music freak. I learned every song that came out. As I got older, the people changed. It became Helen Reddy, Toni Tenille, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand – the list goes on and on. I have such respect for people who sing and conquer the world by telling stories through music.

Seán: What’s on your list? Is there a role you’re dreaming of doing?

Lucie: No, for some strange reason I don’t think like that. I don’t think about what I don’t have and how am I going to get it. I’ve just been really lucky with the kinds of choices that have been set up in front of me all my life. It’s more about pick and choose, you know? Should I do that or this? I never got into the habit of being bored or being out of work long enough to start dreaming about what I’d like to be doing. When I think about what I’d like to do next, it’s always, “Take a nap!”

Seán: When will your CD be released?

Lucie: We finished mastering it before I came to San Francisco. It sounds so good and I am thrilled beyond thrilled. I think we’ll have it pressed for the event in New York. The Desi Arnaz Orchestra show is January 9th through the 11th and I should have a product for those people by then. “Latin Roots” – it will be officially released by February 1st.

Seán: Will some of the material be presented at the Rrazz Room?

Lucie: Yes, as much as I can do that suits a 3-piece band.

Seán: Is there a favorite song among them?

Lucie: I didn’t put anything on the CD that I don’t love. I have a lot of favorites.

Seán: For the benefit of my friends who are I Love Lucy fans, I have to ask the question. Do you have a favorite episode or a favorite moment?

Lucie: No, not at all. There are too many of them. Too many good ones. I know those shows inside out. I’m constantly amazed how funny they are, even those that aren’t everybody’s favorites, you know? There are the traditional favorites that everybody says they love. But then I think there about 55 more that are just as hysterically funny. The episodes I like best were when they both came home.

Seán: My favorite is Episode #38, “The Operetta”.

Lucie: Oh, yes! “I am the Queen of the Gypsies.”

Seán: So, what are you doing between now and Tuesday’s opening?

Lucie: Tonight I’m staying in, ordering room service, watching a movie and going to bed early. That’s it! Monday, I’m appearing in an AIDS benefit with Ron, “One Night Only Holiday Cabaret”. Then I open on Tuesday. I don’t come to San Francisco very often and it’s the first time I’ve played a nightclub here, ever! So, this is a big deal.

Click here for ticket information: An Evening with Lucie Arnaz

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Visit Seán on YouTube:
EMBRACEABLE YOU – On The Organ – At the Legion of Honor
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
Samson vs. Dalilah at AT&T Ballpark
DALILAH – In residence at San Francisco’s de Young Museum

BlogTalkRadio featuring Seán Martinfield – It’s all about singing and the 2009/10 San Francisco Opera Season. Download Carmen Milagro’s recent interview: Women and Legends Who Really Rock, 9/11/2009

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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