I went into I Love Lucy Live on Stage with great expectation. Maybe that was my downfall, I had high hopes. Or maybe it is that I am not a diehard Lucy fan. I find I love Lucy deserving of its’ place in history, a brilliant show that some sixty years later still makes me laugh. I am however, more enamored by the woman behind the woman and Lucille Ball is nowhere to be found here.
The premise is a great one, you are in the audience for the taping of two episodes of I love Lucy back in 1952, complete with live commercial breaks and bloopers. The one thing that was missing was an intermission between episodes. The shows Hour and forty minute running time was a bit much without pause.
My first complaint is that the two episodes chosen were episodes I could not remember ever seeing. Now remember I am nothing more than a very casual admirer of the show, so that is no indictment on the selection, though I thought Vida Veta Vegamin or the Chocolate Factory might be on tap but sadly they were not. Chances are likely that there were licensing issues that prevented that if I had to guess.
The selected episodes did focus on a series mainstay theme, Lucy’s extreme obsession with breaking into show business. The show was fairly true to what it must have been like to be at a television taping at the time. There was an emcee that guided us through the process, talking to audience members, even a couple of planted audience members in a bit that was impossible to understand and thus fell flat.
Make-up easily makes Sirena Irwin into Lucy and Joanna Daniels into Ethel. Their resemblance to the long ago stars was perfect. Another flawless touch were the costumes. Shon LeBlanc and Kelly Bailey are the unseen stars of this production. Their costume designs without exception completely capture the extraordinary fashion sense that was always evident on the show. The rich fabrics and timeless style shone to the back of the house. This is true fifties glamour.
Sirena Irwin as Lucy Ricardo turned Lucy into a caricature of herself. Though I guess Lucy was an over the top character. What I found disappointing was that we never saw Lucille Ball. Even when the cameras weren’t running, when there was a series of bloopers, Irwin was always Ricardo and never Ball. I think she missed an opportunity to make the character deeper.
Joanna Daniels Ethel was fun and I found a closer match to the historic character than Lucy. The real star of the ensemble was Bill Mendieta as Ricky Ricardo; it was like watching Desi Arnez. The voice, the movements, the expressions, he completely embodied the late actor.
The other cast stand out was one of several extras that played various roles as stage hands, camera men and the Chrystaltone Singers-the group responsible for peddling sponsors products during the commercial breaks that were filmed live right along with the show. Cindy Sciacca was a presence that took over the stage whenever she walked onto it, she was lively, funny and what a voice.
This show is a must see for true Lucy fans that want to travel back to a simpler time, if even for only a couple of hours. The woman seated next to me knew every word to every commercial jingle. How she knew all the words to the Brylcreem jingle all these years later is beyond me, but she did, every word. While I think this is a must see for any Lucy devotees, if you are looking for a great night of theater this is not the best option. I would wait for one of the upcoming shows Bass is offering later this month.
I Love Lucy Live on Stage runs through Sunday, March 16th at Bass Hall, Tickets are $44-110.00 depending on ShowTime and are available at http://www.basshall.com . Next up at Bass Hall for one night only American Idiot. A brilliant forward thinking Broadway musical based on the Green Day CD of the same name. March 19th only. Another One Night Only Must see is Forbidden Broadway, a hysterical roast of Broadway that has won all the important awards that honor those along the great white way and promises a night you won’t soon forget. March 27th Only. Next up in the Broadway series is the return of Stomp Opening April 8th.
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