For a short holiday engagement, I Love Lucy – Live on Stage will be at the Merriam Theater. Originating at the Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles in 2011, this production has two of the original episodes from the beloved 1950’s TV sitcom, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined” written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. We are at a taping of these two unrelated episodes and sandwiched in between are many vintage commercials. These TV commercials (Alka Seltzer, Brylcreem, Palmolive Soap, Chevrolet) are sung by the Crystaltone Singers. An announcer (our Desilu Playhouse Host) runs the entire proceedings with long segments of audience participation. There are plants (actors from the production) in the audience to help these bits along. Unfortunately, there is no underlying plot to link all of this disparate material together. We never see Ricky & Lucy backstage or offstage as “themselves”. We are only introduced to them as the stars of the show. So all these miscellaneous bits seem like filler. Like a crab cake that’s all breadcrumbs and little crab there’s too much of the twelve supporting cast members doing hokey things and too little of Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred being funny.
Sirena Irwin is quite adorable as Lucy Ricardo and does a terrific job of dancing the jitterbug. Bill Mendieta is charming with his spot on Cuban accent and great vocals as Ricky. Joanna Daniels does a nice job as Ethel with both her interpretation and her singing. All three of these actors are also dead ringers for the celebs they are portraying. Unfortunately, Kevin Remington does not resemble Fred physically nor actorially. He’s much too jolly as Fred. William Frawley never cracked a smile. He was the original curmudgeon. But Carlos Martin, in a supporting role as the eye doctor, does do a fun Gayle Gordon impersonation.
There is a live band but they don’t play all of the time as there are taped musical segments. And there is a lot of choreography that the Crystaltone Singers perform which consists of a lot of arm waving. If the director’s intention was for it to look corny – then he was successful. So, there’s plenty of nostalgia displayed in this production, but little climactic build to a satisfying story or warm hearted pathos for these iconic television characters that America has grown to love so well.
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