BOY CULTURE REVIEW: ***1/2 out of **** stars
My friend Michael invited me to An Evening with Lucie Arnaz at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn last night. My first thought had been, "I wonder how expensive flights are to Brooklyn?" But I went anyway, joining him, Greg and Tom for a long ride on the 2 and a trip down memory carril.
The court in front of the theater looked a little bit like Night of the Living Dead, which I say affectionately; some of Ms. Arnaz's (Mrs. Luckinbill's—she's been married to Boys in the Band actor Laurence Luckinbill for 33 years) fans were inherited from her late parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, so are not as mobile in their seventies and beyond as Arnaz is at 61.
Speaking of which, she looks 20 years younger, a willowy figure with a surprisingly (at least to me) powerful voice, one she used to highlight selections from her 2010 CD Latin Roots. The show, like the CD, is an unapologetically nostalgic, loving tribute to her late father, featuring songs he made famous ("Babalu," oddly absent from the performance), songs reinterpreted for the theme (the swoony Shelley Fabares pop song "Johnny Angel") and songs that Arnaz remembers as staples of her childhood, when Mr. Arnaz would sit on her bed at night with his guitar and sing her to sleep. Or sing her awake, depending on the selection.
She was especially "on" when it came to the classic "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" and "El Cumbanchero," and her personal adoration of her arranger Ron Abel's songs elevated those as well.
Frankly, I was flabbergasted at how supple her voice is, even if I wasn't as sucked in by the emo quality of some of her asides and selections ("Leader of the Band"). But the show's judicious use of home movies and, at one point, a musical track from her CD (because she couldn't stand making do with a smaller orchestra for that number), more than made up for flashes of over-the-top sentimentality.
Her humorous stories were eaten up, such as when she quoted her mom as having said, "I wanted a man who would be with one woman and sing countless songs...your dad wanted to be with countless women and sing one song." She also spoke eloquently about being part of a family with Latin and New England roots.
"She's a good entertainer," an elderly woman said (out loud) during the show to me. "She gets it from her father."
Somehow, I think that's exactly the reaction Arnaz was going for.
After the show, Greg and I were shooed away from backstage, where we'd figured he might be able to grab some shots (he's a pro shooter), but Arnaz was a complete doll to the long line of fans who waiting to buy her CD, get her autograph and tell her how much they loved growing up watching her and her parents on TV.
Aside from having to eat at the world's busiest Applebee's, where everything on the menu would kill Mayor Bloomberg within 24 hours, I have to say it was a delight.