Lucie Arnaz :: Celebrating Family Roots Through Music at Feinstein's

  • by David Elijah-Nahmod
  • Sunday February 18, 2018
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Lucie Arnaz, who returns to Feinstein's at the Nikko on February 23 and 24, was destined for show business. Her parents, TV legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, starred in the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy," making history as the first mixed race couple on network television: Ball was Caucasian, while Arnaz was Latin.

"They loved each other very much," recalls in an interview with Bay Area Reporter. "But they worked in separate fields, she in films in Hollywood and he touring the country with his orchestra. They saw very little of each other for the first ten years of their marriage. They wanted to have a family, so they pushed very hard to get to work together in order to stay together and allow that to happen. And I for one, am very grateful to them for this."

Arnaz was born in 1951, the year "I Love Lucy" debuted. She grew up in Hollywood, surrounded by the bright lights and glamour of show business. "I think when you watch people do something that they love and they make people happy when they do it, you might tend to give that business a try," she said. "Whatever field it is. And any parent that supports their children's passions--acting, drums, dance, cooking, science, sports--makes it possible for them to believe in themselves enough to attempt to make that passion a career."

Arnaz got an early start, appearing on "The Lucy Show," her mother's second series. This was followed by a six-year run as her mom's co-star on "Here's Lucy." Many more roles followed. Arnaz starred in her own series, "The Show," and had a major role in the 1980 film "The Jazz Singer," opposite Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier.

She has performed extensively in musical theater, playing Sally Bowles in "Cabaret," Daisy Mae in "Lil Abner," Annie Oakley in "Annie Get Your Gun," and in "Seesaw" opposite theater legend Tommy Tune. She starred on Broadway in "They're Playing Our Song" and has been a popular concert performer for thirty years. There have also been numerous TV movies.

"To me they are all very much the same as they all involved working with a live audience," Arnaz said. "Except for a few films and some one camera TV work I have always gravitated to the live experience. It's the most challenging and the most rewarding for me. It also creates more of a community and family around you."

When Arnaz takes to the stage at Feinstein's she'll be paying tribute to her late father, who was a renowned Latin bandleader. She's calling her show "Latin Roots."

"It was inspired by the fact that I believe that I would not have ended up in the musical end of the business were it not for my father's influences and listening to his music while growing up," she said. "After several years of doing concerts, I started to slip in bits of that sound as a tip of the hat to him."

In 2010 Arnaz produced an entire evening of music of The Desi Arnaz Orchestra-musical arrangements which are now housed at the Library of Congress--for the 40th anniversary of the Lyric and Lyricists events in New York.

"We called it Babalu," she recalls. "I simultaneously produced a new CD released at the same time which I called 'Latin Roots,' which was a combination of some of those wonderful tunes of Dad's and many other great American songs, but arranged with more of a Latin beat. The 'Latin Roots' show I will do in San Francisco at Feinstein's is a kind of mash-up of those two."

She said that she'd prefer not to say which songs she'll be performing at Feinstein's.

"Audiences can expect to hear great stories in the songs I sing and a variety of material," she says. "I never like to give out song lists because I don't always do a song the way you might expect and I like to surprise. It's just the way I do it. I like it when I give people something they are not expecting."

Arnaz feels that all music is based on the basic Latin beat. "African, really," she says. "Jungle. If you have that music in you from birth, as all Cubans do, and even some of us 50% Cubanas, you often drift towards a career as a singer, dancer or musician. You find great joy in music and finding great joy in music has made what I get to do for a living a constant blessing."

"Lucie Arnaz: Latin Roots" at Feinstein's At the Nikko, February 23 and 24 at 8pm. $60-$100 ($20 food/drink min.) Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St.

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