A Celebration of Latin Music from the '40s and '50s as seen
through the music of The Desi Arnaz Orchestra
Babalu a musical celebration of the music of Desi Arnaz and his Orchestra, created and directed by his daughter, Lucie Arnaz, and co starring Raul Esparza and Valarie Pettiford, brother, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and conducted by Lucie's long-time musical cohort, Ron Abel, completed a run in Miami, Florida, to multiple standing ovations, nightly, and outstanding reviews.
ARTICLE: New York Social Diary (January 12, 2010)
This past Sunday night at the 92nd Street Y they opened the 40th anniversary season of Lyrics & Lyricists with “Babalu – the American Songbook Goes Latin,” featuring the music of the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. The show’s artistic director is Desi Arnaz’ daughter Lucie, who also hosts and performs.
Paige Peterson, who has been a friend of Ms. Arnaz since the days they were both in the business and being mentored by Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball’s sidekick in “I Love Lucy,” took in the show for NYSD.
Lucie Arnaz also hosts and performs. The production includes a Latin big band, vocalists Raúl Esparza and Valarie Pettiford and Latin dancers Mark Stuart Eckstein and Kristine Bendul. Lucie’s brother Desi Arnaz, Jr. is a special guest, making the show a family affair.
Lucie and I have been friends since the days when we both were mentored by the great Vivian Vance who played Ethel, foil for Lucie’s mother Lucille Ball on “I Love Lucy.”
“Babalu-The American Songbook Goes Latin" was a tribute to her father, and a chance to celebrate Desi Arnaz’s musical career and the major role Latin music has played in the American Songbook.
For this show, Lucie has resurrected her father’s original orchestra charts, which have been housed at the Library of Congress for the last 20 years. Desi achieved lasting fame form “I Love Lucy,” but earlier in his career, he was a major player in the big-band era.
Desi Arnaz was the only son of a prominent, wealthy family in Santiago, Cuba. After the 1933 his family was left powerless and penniless in Miami. Desi used his innate musical abilities to put food on the table. He worked for Xavier Cugat, who in time gave him his own small "Latin" band. It was such a disaster that Desi was forced to "beat the hell out of a big Afro-Cuban drum in his "dance of desperation" -- which ended up introducing the Conga, a dance craze that swept the country.
In 1937 he signed with RCA Records. The handsome, hot-blooded Latin so impressed New York's elite on stage that he became the toast of the town at the La Conga Club. A Broadway show, the subsequent movie role, a marriage to co-star Lucille Ball, a World War and several non-ignited film parts, forced Desi to revisit his first love--music and leading another orchestra.
This orchestra was the best one yet. Desi's first single was "Babalu" it was a huge hit and became his signature for the rest of his life.
The fabulous singer Raul Esparza was spellbinding and smoldering, as was Valarie Pettiford. Raul told the audience "Cubans have to know how to dance. You dance on a brick. Very elegantly." Ron Abel was musical director.
Lucie is her father's daughter. Tall and stylish she sang the hell out of Desi's music while her brother channeled his father on percussion. Songs by Irving Berlin, Arthur Schwartz, Pepe Guizar, Johnny Lange, Hy Health and Desi Arnaz, Frank Loesser, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Bobby Collazo and Margarita Lecuona.
When the band played the "I Love Lucy" theme song, the audience roared with delight. Lucie's foot work was crisp and exact. She talks to you on stage as if she were in your living room. She made her Broadway debut in "They're Playing Our Song.” We could not sit still in our seats. It was crazy good. Standing ovation? You bet! Broadway bound? Let's hope so! (Source)
ARTICLE: broadwayworld.com (July 9, 2010)
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County opened the special engagement of BABALU, a loving tribute and phenomenal stage show celebrating the extraordinary musical legacy of Desi Arnaz last night, July 8. The show will run through July 11. Created, directed, and hosted by Lucie Arnaz, BABALU's engagement at the Adrienne Arsht Center multiple Tony Award-nominee and Miami native Raúl Esparza, Broadway's Tony-nominated diva of dance Valarie Pettiford and in a rare, special guest appearance, Desi Arnaz, Jr. playing percussion on his father's classic hits. Below, BroadwayWorld brings you a preview of the backstage photo coverage. Check back soon for complete coverage of the event.
With a live 15-piece orchestra playing from the original Desi Arnaz Orchestra charts, BABALU brings the rhythm of the tropics and the glamour of the Tropicana nightclub to the Adrienne Arsht Center in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Tickets range from $35 to $70 and will be available beginning on May 14 to premiere seat holders and members. Tickets go on sale to the general public on May 21, and may be purchased through the Adrienne Arsht Center box office by calling (305) 949-6722, or online at www.arshtcenter.org.
More than 50 years ago, Cuban-born actor, musician, and producer Desi Arnaz became a household name, stealing our hearts as conga player and bandleader Ricky Ricardo in one of the most successful television show of all time, "I Love Lucy." From his family's humble roots as exiles in Miami, Desi Arnaz built a groundbreaking entertainment empire, revolutionizing the sitcom genre, and introducing the concept of intelligent, charming, hard-working and successful Latinos to audiences everywhere. With his endearing humor, debonair style, and powerful voice, Desi Arnaz infused each song with unique panáche - and none more so than his signature conga, "Babalu."
The stage production of BABALU highlights Arnaz's greatest hits and pays homage to the major role he played in planting the first seeds of the Latin music explosion in this country. This extraordinary performance features Arnaz's daughter, actress-singer-dancer Lucie Arnaz, Broadway star Raúl Esparza, fiery Fosse femme fatale Valarie Pettiford, a rare, special appearance by Desi Arnaz, Jr. on percussion, and the original musical arrangements from the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. With music direction by Ron Abel; sizzling performances by local Miami dancers Richard Amaro (Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life) and Jeanette Delgado (principal dancer, Miami City Ballet); and featuring stunning choreography by Ramon Del Barrio (NAACP Theater Award winner and choreographer of Academy Award-winning movie musicAl West Bank Story), BABALU is a Cuban-flavored theatrical tour de force. (Source)