“Lucy, I’m home!”
Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred all reprise their original roles in I Love Lucy: Live on Stage, appearing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for a three-week run January 14 to February 2. Recreating two classic episodes of I Love Lucy, this performance transports the audience back to the 1950s as they witness the episodes being filmed within the Desilu Studios.
Hosted by Maury Jasper, the studio audience watches the ensemble perform onstage, occasionally encouraged by the applause sign to clap their hands. While the cast changes the set, vintage commercials are reproduced and licensed music is performed, complete with Crystaltone Singers. You can expect flashbacks from Alka-Seltzer, Brylcreem and Palmolive Soap. I really enjoyed these commercials, many of which I had no clue about, since they aired before my birth.
In The Benefit, which was the first episode performed, Lucy cons Ricky into letting her perform with him at a benefit show. In the second episode, Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined, Lucy’s blurred vision hampers a Broadway audition with hilarious results. During the intermission, a Lucy trivia contest was held between an audience member and an actor who was planted in the audience.
I Love Lucy: Live on Stage successfully offers a peek behind the showbiz curtain. The costumes were a big part of the show, offering nylons and crinoline to made the audience feel like they were actually transported back in time. In between takes the wardrobe person, seamstress, stand-in and Stage Manager all make appearances for corrections. Speaking of corrections, I enjoyed the few retakes (which were done on purpose) to show it was actually a live TV show being filmed.
Sirena Irwin was enjoyable, really sounding like Lucille Ball. Bill Mendieta’s impersonation of Ricky impressive, mastering the original actor’s nuances in both Spanish and English, as well as singing and dancing. However, I seem to remember Desi Arnaz’s Ricky being much madder on the TV show. But Joanna Daniels stole the show. Her spot-on representation of Ethel truly captured her voice and mannerisms perfectly.
I Love Lucy: Live on Stage offers a fun flashback to yesteryear, enjoyable for the whole family.