by Steve Desroches
For over 50 years Lucie Arnaz has been in show business. To say it is in her blood is an understatement considering her parents were Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, two icons of comedy and music, respectively, and of course American television pioneers. A career that began when she was a teenager on The Lucy Show blossomed into success on television, in film, and especially on the stages of Broadway and cabarets across America. And this week Arnaz is making her Provincetown debut as she brings her intimate evening of music to the Crown and Anchor.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Arnaz witnessed her parents blazing a trail in what was then a new form of media with their work on the television show I Love Lucy. With both of her parents trained and accomplished in a variety of forms of entertainment, it seemed natural that Arnaz would herself follow in their footsteps. But it wasn’t always that apparent to Arnaz herself. While she had put on little plays as a child for her family and friends in their living room, as a young adult Arnaz, like anyone, began to think about what she wanted to do with her life to make her own mark in the world. It was when she moved to New York and went to see Angela Lansbury in the Broadway show Mame that things clicked.
“I had this epiphany,” says Arnaz from her home in California. “I thought, ‘Oh my God! That’s what I want to do!’ You know when you’re a kid and trying to find yourself and you ask yourself, ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ It was just this visceral experience watching that show. I thought, ‘This is me.’ And that’s all I wanted to do from then on.”
Arnaz dove head first into auditioning, landing roles in regional productions of Cabaret, Once Upon a Mattress, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Lil’ Abner, and a role in the national tour of Seesaw, followed by a starring role in Annie Get Your Gun at the Jones Beach Theatre. It was during that run as Annie Oakley that Arnaz auditioned for a Neil Simon musical headed to Broadway called They’re Playing Our Song. With lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and music by Marvin Hamlisch, Arnaz said that upon reading the script she couldn’t sleep at night; this part had to be hers. But after her audition her phone didn’t ring all summer. And what was worse is she heard rumor after rumor that the role was given to Cher, Bette Midler, and Barbra Streisand, until finally she received a call back. Despite feeling like she’d blown her second audition, by the time she got home there was a message waiting for her; she got the part.
The original production of They’re Playing Our Song was a smash hit for the 1979 – 1980 season on Broadway, and she and her co-star Robert Klein were the toast of the town. And while Arnaz would go on to star on Broadway in Lost in Yonkers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and most recently in Pippin, she also developed a variety of in-demand cabaret shows, showcasing everything from her Broadway background to her family’s Latin musical roots to covers of pop standards, playing everywhere from Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas to New York’s Lincoln Center. But it’s the smaller venues, like the Crown and Anchor, that provide a thrilling opportunity to perform in a cozy atmosphere accompanied by just a piano and a love for music. The creation of a relationship between Arnaz and the audience is sealed and everyone focuses on the music and on each other. It’s a feeling like no other, says Arnaz.
“It’s all about being on stage in front of a live audience,” says Arnaz. “I just love the experience and the connection with the audience.”
Lucie Arnaz in Concert is at the Paramount at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Sunday, July 24 and Monday, July 25 at 8 p.m. For tickets ($70 – $130) and information, got to the box office, call 508.487.1430, or visit onlyatthecrown.com.