Lucie Arnaz’s “I Got the Job! Songs from My Musical Past”

July 23, 2023

For more than 45 years, Lucie Arnaz has been a working actor, starting on her famed mother’s sitcom Here’s Lucy. Like any working actor worth their salt, she has lots of stories to tell. Those stories were the immensely charming, delightfully funny, and icon-filled connective tissue for her show, I Got the Job! Songs from My Musical Past, which recently enjoyed a four-day run at 54 Below.  Accompanied by the talented Ron Abel (of whom I have been aware as an accomplished music director and arranger about as long as I have been aware of cabaret), her voice was strong and sure and shockingly unchanged from when I first saw her in They’re Playing Our Song on Broadway. 

Lucie Arnaz (Photo courtesy 54 Below)

The show debuted at the club four years ago, but thanks to COVID, knee replacements, booking glitches, and life, this was her first time back with it. Her stories and patter were so natural, and delivered with such razor-sharp timing and apparent spontaneity that it seemed like she was thinking it up and delivering it on the spot.  I would have been more than happy to sit at my table, sip my two-drink minimum, and listen to her talk about Broadway and touring and working with the likes of Michael Bennett, Marvin Hamlisch, Cameron McIntosh, and Jerry Herman, to name but a few.  But, as the title indicated, the show was not a sparkling comedic monologue but a collection of songs from her past—and there was the rub.

The lively, hilarious raconteur kept disappearing into songs delivered as if she were actually in each of the shows she was recalling. I have often said that cabaret singing is much more akin to film acting than to stage acting. Too many of the songs (most in fact) were too big for the room. Her facial expressions, her physicality, and her delivery were overdone; this was “acting” with a capital “A” and a few times it seemed like she was acting in a silent movie. This was a particular shame because her voice is in great shape, and she’s even singing some of the material in the original keys.  After a promising opening medley of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (Irving Berlin, from Annie Get Your Gun) and “A Lot of Livin’ To Do” (Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, from Bye Bye Birdie) she moved right into an overwrought “Out of My Dreams” (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II from Oklahoma!) not helped at all by Abel’s added vocals. Keeping in the over-theatrical mode, she visited Seesaw, They’re Playing Our Song, The Witches of Eastwick, Mack & Mabel, and others.  One of the main problems was that the show began to resemble a dozen audition numbers strung together. As well sung as each was technically, the over-immersion in each character, divorced from any plot, costume or set-up, created a sameness in the delivery.  And while Abel’s playing itself was exemplary, the arrangements were mainly re-creations rather than creative on their own. Even on the one surprising reinvention, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin), the new arrangement did not inspire Arnaz to just tell the story but rather served as another demonstration of empty intensity. Apart from the opening and a reprise of “Show Business” at the end, I didn’t get to hear Lucie Arnaz sing as herself.  I would have loved that.

Fortunately, all those terrific stories kept saving the day. I just wish I could have seen more of the wonderful talent telling them in the songs. A change of repertoire or the addition of a director might go a long way toward allowing that to happen. Lucie Arnaz the singer deserves a much better showcase. 


Presented at 54 Below, 254 W. 54th St,, NYC, July 19-22, 2023.


About the Author

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning "Monday in the Dark with George" and "Put On Your Saturday Suit-Words & Music by Jimmy Webb"—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs "The David Drumgold Variety Show," currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He’s taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London’s Goldsmith’s College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York’s performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is an artist in residence at Pangea, and a regular contributor to the podcast “Troubadours & Raconteurs.” He just completed a memoir of his life in NYC called “Didn’t I Ever Tell You This?”