BWW Review: Lucie Arnaz Lights Up 54 Below with I GOT THE JOB!
There are certain irrefutable facts in life. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, any breakfast eaten tastes better on Sunday, naps are better on the sofa than in bed, and you will always leave a Lucie Arnaz show happier than when you came in.
Ms. Arnaz has brought an encore performance of her show "I Got The Job!" to Feinstein's/54 Below and an overjoyed, sold-out house last night was beaming broadly, sides sore from laughing, hands tired from clapping as they lamented the fact that her 90-minute show wasn't 120 minutes. A veteran of show business from an early age, Arnaz has certainly had enough experience to put together a nightclub act, but what she is doing on stage at 54 Below is not just the product of experience - it is the right combination of acumen, collaboration, and star quality, because while Lucie Arnaz has learned what's good and what goes, and while she has Ron Abel up on stage with her, Lucie Arnaz has that mystique, that quality that people have, long, referred to as "Je ne sais quois" or, simply, IT.
And last night IT rolled right off the stage and into the happy laps of one lucky audience.
The premise of "I Got the Job!" is a simple one: Lucie Arnaz is looking back on her life in musical theater, sharing stories from her youth performing in the family garage, to the day Cameron Mackintosh simply said "Which role do you want?" and OH MY GOSH can Lucie Arnaz tell a story! Not everyone's life is interesting enough for their anecdotes to be used in an evening of entertainment, and sometimes the life is interesting but the storytelling skills aren't there. Neither of these things are true when Lucie Arnaz is in the spotlight. At least half of the show is singing and half is talking, and although Arnaz is a superb vocalist (singing in the same keys she used when, first, she played these roles), when she is not singing the audience wasn't sorry because her ability to recount with firecracker wit and flawless timing, using words to paint pictures with immaculate descriptive prowess, is unmatched. Lucie Arnaz lands on stage, hits her mark, gets the laughs, and stops before the laugh-getting becomes schticky. Her conversation with the audience is prepared but not rehearsed, spontaneous but not extemporaneous, flawless but not false. This is one of those occasions when it is impossible to not feel like you are hanging out with a friend, listening to them share the stories of their life, most of them replete with hilarity, some of them touching, but all of them worth the time and the price of admission.
And then there is Lucie Arnaz's musical talent. Anyone who watched Here's Lucy knows how great Lucie Arnaz can sing. People can buy and listen to cast albums from They're Playing Our Song and The Witches of Eastwick. Hearing her sing live, though, you get the full experience of the tranquil wistfulness of "I Got Lost In His Arms" and the blazing bliss of "Poor Everybody Else" - you get to see how a pro handles being immediately immersed into a new story 14 times in 90 perfect minutes. Lucie brings with her songs she sang in shows like Pippin and Mack and Mabel, and songs she didn't sing when she appeared in Witches of Eastwick and Oklahoma, and always to eye-popping results. With arrangements the like of which have made Ron Abel famous, Ms. Arnaz gets to share standards like "Out of My Dreams" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It" but when she pairs the songs with stories about always playing the sluts, and completely forgetting the words, the songs take on a whole new meaning.
A particularly overwhelming portion of the evening, for this writer whose first Broadway show ever was They're Playing Our Song, was Lucie's story of how she got the job, what the previews of the show were like and, of course, hearing the original Sonia Walsk sing the title song and "I Still Believe in Love" one more time in person (even though I keep the cast album in my phone and listen to it frequently).
"I Got The Job" is a prime example of how writing out your club act can serve you because it plays like a theater piece that any actress could pick up and do, the lead character being a fascinating, funny, fetching, fabulous, fierce woman named Lucie -- and fortunately for everyone seeing the show right now, the role is being played by the woman for whom it was written, and she is playing it just right, making sure to give her attention to all three sides of the stage so that all of her audience can feel the love she has for them and for the art of live performing. It is obvious that her work still rewards her - all one need do is see the abandon with which she throws herself into the numbers, the passionate joy on her face, and the way she looks right into the eyes of every member of the audience with whom she connects. Lucie Arnaz is easily one of the most entertaining, original and pleasurable artists to watch in action, the kind of artist that makes you glad you made the decision to not stay home, and the kind that makes you think about going back for a second, even a third, viewing.
Photos by Stephen Mosher