March 13, 2006

Lucie Arnaz reminisces, sings in Ridgefield Playhouse

Lucie Arnaz is a classy lady. And why wouldn't she be. Her mom and dad were show business royalty: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Saturday, March 10th, Arnaz brought her zest for life and love of the stage to The Ridgefield Playhouse in Danbury, CT in "An Evening with Lucie Arnaz". From a tribute to her Latin roots and her father, to a touch of Irving Berlin, Arnaz performed the songs she loves, and then joined the audience at a champagne reception.

Lucille Ball, left, is joined by her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, in a hastily produced talent show about the liner S.S. Lurline in the "Lucy Goes Hawaiian" episode of "Here's Lucy."

Arnaz delights in being in films as much as she loves the Broadway stage.

"If I could always find them and make a living at it, I'd be in a great play on Broadway for six months and then in a top film for the rest of the year," she said. "They're such different experiences. On the stage, it's all in your head, in your eyes, in how you carry yourself. It's bigger, immediate — you and the audience. It lasts for a minute and then lives on in the memory.

"In film, the director tells you, 'That's what I want.' And you do a few frames. They photograph you and touch it up — make you look good. And when they make you look good, it's there forever," Arnaz said.

Arnaz makes a living in almost every facet of the entertainment business. She's an actress, singer, dancer, producer, director and Broadway star. She's proven herself as a business executive too, managing Desilu, which she formed with her brother, Desi Arnaz, Jr., to oversee their parents' vast legacy.

She also helps run "Education Through Entertainment," which she formed with her husband, actor Larry Luckinbill. Married in 1980, they have three children — Simon, Joe and Kate Luckinbill, plus Luckinbill's two sons, Nicholas and Ben.

Arnaz's Broadway hits are many, including "Annie Get Your Gun" (in which she played Annie), "Educating Rita" (with Luckinbill), "Whose Life is it Anyway," and the Neil Simon/Marvin Hamlisch hit, "They're Playing Our Song."

She also performed for 15 months in London's prestigious West End in "The Witches of Eastwick." And her first album, "Just in Time," was released in 1993 by Concord, Jazz, Inc.

As for Arnaz's appearances on television, they're too numerous to list; she got her start on her mother's hit series, "The Lucy Show," at age 12. In 1968, at 17, she became a regular on "Here's Lucy," starring with brother Desi. She went on as an adult to have her own series, "The Lucie Arnaz Show" in 1985.

"My mother was a pretty smart lady," Arnaz said. "She never would have put her kids on her show if we weren't talented. From age 7 to 9, I was making up plays and putting them on in the back yard. Then I picked my high school because it had the best drama department. She (Ball) knew that's where my heart was."

While Arnaz had acted for family, friends and school chums, going on a national TV show was another matter. "It was putting me out in front of millions of viewers," she recalled, adding she knew she could have blown her career if she performed poorly. "I literally made by writers and executive producers, my aunt and my step-dad, and made them promise that if the reviews and word of mouth were asking 'What is this kid doing on the air?' they'd write me out and save my career."

That wasn't necessary. Each year, Arnaz's performances became better and better. And they gave her more and more to do in the series.

"I learned my craft in front of millions of people," Arnaz said. "But I went back to the stage, thanks to Vivian Vance."

Vance, who played Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy," told Arnaz she should never forget that her first love was the stage.

"'Don't' get stuck playing the same character year after year on a TV show,' Vivian said. 'Be diversified.' She was a dear friend and the very first time I opened on the stage in Hartford, there was Vivian, standing in the wings applauding," Arnaz said.

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