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Moving Out of the Shadow of Legendary Performers

Date: 2000-02-25
source: The New York Times
author: Stephen Holden

Performers whose parents are show business legends have inescapable ghost to wrestle with. Their names and strong family resemblance usually ensure that their famous parents are figuratively gazing over their shoulders whenever they perform. Singers who reject their parents' musical values tend to be viewed as rebellious ingrates fleeing the silver spoons that fed them, while those who embrace their legacies often find themselves bucking unfavorable comparisons.

Lucie Arnaz (the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) and Steve March Torme (Mel Torme's son), who are appearing together at Feinstein's at the Regency through tomorrow, bravely confront their legacies head-on and with mixed results. These two polished performers grew up together on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., and when they joint voices at the end of the show, you feel the relaxed camaraderie of childhood friends.

Of the two, Ms. Arnaz, who is officially presenting Mr. Torme in his New York nightclub debut, has had far more success in establishing an independent identity. Ms. Arnaz, a funny, snappy performer and vocalist in the brassy pop mode where Broadway meets Atlantic City, exudes a brittle comic fizz. In Saturday's early show, she delivered Craig Carnelia's song "Just a Housewife" from the musical "Working" with a bright, punchy conviction and previewed a number from a forthcoming Cameron Mackintosh-procuded musical bsed on "The Witches of Eastwick," in which she has a starring role.

But the only number in which her personality came fully to the fore was na answer song (with her original lyrics) to the Willie Nelson-Julio Iglesias duet "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," as it might be sung by Dolly Parton and Charo. This bit of inspired zaniness suggested that Ms. Arnaz is really a comedian at heart.

Mr. Torme's pop-jazz set presented him as a rough-hewn modernized chip off the old block. He has a solid sense of swing and a full, mellow voice reminiscent of his father's but lacking the senior Torme's rhythmic power and phenomenal mastery of tone and pitch.