Revisit a TV classic with I Love Lucy Live On Stage
‘I Love Lucy’ has been on our TVs for more than 60 years, and now you can re-live the excitement of seeing the show in living color as ‘I Love Lucy Live On Stage’ tours the country.
Step back in time to 1950-something, to the beginning of the Golden Age of Television, step into the theater which is now a TV studio, specifically Desilu Studios and enjoy the “filming” of two episodes of the classic TV comedy I Love Lucy.
If you’re a fan of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel, then you’ll want to make sure to snap up some tickets to the hit touring production I Love Lucy Live On Stage, now in its “second season.” This production is currently at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through October 26. What can audiences expect from something that’s probably so familiar to so many? A really fun evening!
The show transports the audience back in time to Desilu Studios where two episode of I Love Lucy will be filmed back-to-back. While we’re watching the show, we’re actually participants as well, clapping when the Applause sign lights up, enjoying commercial breaks and all the busy-ness that goes on between set-ups, and even a “flubbed” line which has to be “re-shot.” It’s not as technical as a real TV shoot, but it is entertaining enough to make you feel like you’re really there with the cast and crew.
In addition to being a part of the “live studio audience,” a cast member or two may wander through the audience chatting up other real audience members before the show starts (Birdie Mae Figg from Oklahoma introduced herself to me as she was looking for her seat), and between episodes there is a trivia game with one audience member and Birdie Mae which adds to the fun.
While the commercials and behind-the-scenes moments are entertaining, the reason for the show is the re-enactment of the two episodes, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined.” In the first, Ethel wants Ricky to perform at her ladies’ club show but Lucy wants to be in the act as well. In the second, Ricky brings a Broadway producer home for dinner and Lucy and the Mertzes want to audition for him. He agrees, but the next day Lucy has an eye exam which renders her nearly blind, and hilarity ensues as she can barely see her jitterbug partner.
These episodes probably aren’t the most well-known in the I Love Lucy canon, but they are certainly the easiest to reproduce on a stage with only the Ricardos’ living room and Ricky’s nightclub needed as sets, and a healthy dose of music and dancing. As a die-hard fan, I can’t say that the Tropicana is accurate to the show, but it does the job. The apartment living room is very well reproduced from the show, right down to the figurines on the mantle but there is one glaring error – “The Benefit” is from season one when the apartment did not have a window while “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined” is from season three when there was a window. This set has the window, but curiously enough, the first touring production used the first season apartment. It doesn’t detract from the show in any way, but for hardcore fans it does nag at you a bit.
On the plus side, the ensemble cast is amazing, taking on various parts from crooners to commercial jingle singers and actors, right down to Speedy Alka Seltzer, and “Dinah Beach” singing the Chevrolet song. Kevin Remington and Lori Hammel play Fred and Ethel, and while they get to sing and dance a bit, I really would have liked to have seen more of that interaction they had on TV with Lucy and Ricky. Euriamis Losada is excellent as Ricky. He’s got the voice, the accent, and all the mannerisms down pat. He may not look exactly like Desi Arnaz, but if you squint a little and just listen to him speak or sing, you’d swear Desi was on stage (and the audience loved when he finally told Lucy she had some ‘splainin’ to do).
Of course, besides Ricky the toughest act to pull off is Lucy. With her distinctive voice and showgirl beauty (Lucy came to Hollywood as a Goldwyn Girl), it’s almost impossible for anyone to do a good Lucy Ricardo without becoming a caricature (Lucy impersonator Diane Vincent is one of the best). So you have to give it to Thea Brooks for even attempting to take on such an iconic role. She doesn’t sound like Lucy, but she does the character very well indeed, right down to the over-the-top crying, off-key singing, and her signature “spider voice” that she used when one of her hair-brained plans went off the rails. Brooks is pretty terrific in a daunting role, even more impressive as this is her first lead role in her second touring production.
Overall, the sets, costumes and lighting design are marvelous, the interaction with the audience makes this more than just a night out at the theatre, and the cast work their magic as they transport you back in time to see a classic TV show brought back to life before your very eyes. I Love Lucy Live On Stage should be a must-see for any Lucy fan, or for anyone who just wants to escape today’s worries and woes for a couple of hours.
I Love Lucy Live On Stage heads to San Francisco from Baltimore, and will visit many cities across the country including Colorado Springs, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Hershey, Providence, Worcester, Macon, Jacksonville, Clearwater, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Orlando and many more. Click on the banner for tickets and more information.