January 10, 2012

Life is a Cabaret as Lucie Arnaz Celebrates her "Latin Roots"

Photo by Steven Sorokoff
Lucie Arnaz was in great voice for the premiere of "Latin Roots," her cabaret show at Feinstein's in New York City, which is based on her CD that celebrates her father, Desi Arnaz, and his conga-happy music.  She performed on Thursday night at the packed premiere of her joyfully warm and superbly sung “Latin Roots.”

Arnaz sang and offered anecdotes on opening night when she discussed her parents' different backgrounds and legendary volatility.

Her dad, she said, was from Latin soil - rich, hot and steamy and no stranger to hurricanes. Her mom, Lucille Ball, hailed from hearty acidic compost of New England that's accustomed to long cold periods of frost.

Another amusing moment came from Arnaz's pal Tommy Tune, who, ever the director, couldn't resist getting in on the act ever so briefly as four musicians - Ron Abel, Steve Samuel, Brian Nelepka and Roger Squitero - took to the stage. As the lights dimmed, Tune declared: "Okay, places!"

Good way to start, as Arnaz arrived and everything, even opening-night jitters, fell into place.

A swinging “I’ll See You in C-U-B-A” by Irving Berlin launched the show devoted to her dad, Desi Arnaz, and the south-of-the-border pop sounds the Santiago de Cuba-born bandleader made famous in nightclubs and on “I Love Lucy.”

“This is about my tropical roots,” said Arnaz, who showcased her lean and leggy figure in a short off-the-shoulder dress precisely the shade of a Pink Flamingo, as in the Cuban cocktail.

During the eclectic hour-plus set, Arnaz, whose varied career includes Broadway’s “They’re Playing Our song,” made like a mixologist, shaking up and stirring the moods and music.

“Jip Japa,” an obscure tune her father sang to her as a little girl, found her rolling Latin-style rrrrrr’s fast and furiously. She didn’t do “Babalu,” but she and her four-man band served a spicy “El Cumbanchero.”

On the standards “Lover,” “I Love to Dance” and “I Got Lost in His Arms,” Arnaz worked her lusty vibrato and her father’s lush arrangements, which she’d discovered after he died in 1986.

And in a sweet touch, Arnaz sent a bubbly “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” out as an air kiss to her husband of 32 years, actor Laurence Luckinbill, who was seated with their kids.

Fitting, since “Latin Roots,” which is based on her CD, is about family. And it was apparent that the spirit of mom Lucille Ball was in the house, too.

When Arnaz lost her way during her banter, she sent music director Ron Abel to fetch her notes. She filled the gap by joking, saying “Hi” to pals in the audience — Tommy Tune, Michele Lee, Hal Linden — and clowning with disarming charm. That’s part of her DNA, too.

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