‘I Love Lucy Live on Stage’

October 6, 2011 | By Gil Kaan | Category: Theater and Dance

Sirena Irwin as Lucy and Bill Mendieta as Ricky in "I Love Lucy Live on Stage" at the Greenway Court Theatre. / photo by Ed Krieger

Who loves Lucy?  From the production I saw at the Greenway Court, everyone involved in “I Love Lucy Live on Stage.”

Rick Sparks has staged and directed a very affectionate homage to those involved in the original “I Love Lucy” sitcom. From the replication of the Ricardos’ living room, detailed down to a pair of Asian figurines atop the mantel  (kudos to set designer Aaron Henderson), to the re-creations of various 1950s TV commercials to the faithful re-enactments of the original Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. scripts.

The four leads playing Lucy (Sirena Irwin), Ricky (Bill Mendieta), Ethel (Lisa Joffrey) and Fred (Bill Chott) embody the essences of the original cast.

But Irwin and Mendieta really nail their spot-on impersonations of America’s first TV couple. Irwin is pitch-perfect in her Lucy wailing and Lucy muggings — and Lucille Ball’s comedic timing. Mendieta’s mangling of English words, his swinging hips, and his “Ba-ba-loos” make his Ricky timeless and sexy in any era. Joffrey and Chott have their finest moment on stage as they joyously Charleston their fancy footwork auditioning for Ricky’s producer friend.

In “I Love Lucy Live on Stage,” the theater audience becomes the studio audience for the “live filming” of two episodes of “I Love Lucy — “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined.” In what would be the role of a present-day warm-up comedian, Mark Christopher Tracy deftly guides the audience through the various “technical hurdles” of “live filming” while introducing the various commercial breaks sung and danced by a talented ensemble (including himself). The harmony vocal group Crystal Tones (Kerri-Anne Lavin, Cindy Sciacca, Gina Torrecilla, Tom Christensen, Gregory Franklin, Ed Martin) wildly succeed in their commercials being entertaining and funny the way the Emmytones on this year’s Emmy telecast should have been.

The ensemble, all playing multiple parts, had their individual occasions to shine —whether as an eye doctor (Martin), an audience member (Amy Tolsky), a jitterbugger (Christensen), Speedy the Alka Seltzer tablet (Denise Moses), or singer Dinah Shore, er, Dinah Beach (Torrecilla).

A live six-piece band (with conga drums, of course!), under the sharp direction of Wayne Moore, entertains both as the Ricky Ricardo Orchestra and as the musical backup for all the hysterical commercials (Alka Seltzer, Chevrolet, Halo Shampoo).

Shout-outs go to costumer Shon LeBlanc for her gorgeous 1950s dresses and the multi-colored, ruffle-sleeved shirts for the Orchestra, and to sound designer Cricket S. Myers for her hysterically, precisely timed doorbell chimes.

This show is a must-see for “I Love Lucy” aficionados as they will easily recognize the setups and situations of the two episodes.  New fans to Lucy will just get caught up in the infectious fun of this 90-minute, intermission-less show set in a much more innocent and naïve time.

–Gil Kaan, Culture Spot LA

Performances continue through Dec. 30. Showtimes are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. (Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 26). Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., LA 90036. For tickets, call (800) 595-4TIX or visit www.ilovelucylive.com.

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  1. I went and saw this brilliant show the very very first night it played in LA. I am from Oklahoma and my family and I were planning a trip to Hollywood and I just RANDOMLY came across this show on Facebook. I am a HUGE fan of I Love Lucy, and I just HAD to see it! Me and my best friend bought our tickets immediately. We expected it to be good, but we were so taken back and it absolutely EXCEEDED our expectations. From the first few minutes you are in the theater you have cast interaction. This one young lady, Denise Moses, came up to my best friend and it was so funny, we thought she was just a normal theater goer, tapped him on the shoulder got big BRIGHT eyes and said. “ARE YOU FAMOUS? YOU JUST LOOK LIKE YOU’RE FAMOUS AND I WANT AN AUTOGRAPH.” He of course is not famous, shook his head, and she proceeded going down our row asking everyone. We shortly found out, she was in the show.

    I am only 24, and he is only 23, and yes we have the episodes on DVD but we really never got to experience or even the chance to see a taping of I Love Lucy. I can honestly tell you this is the next best thing. Like Gil said in this review they set it up like a taping and have those ‘glitches’ they would have during a regular taping.

    There is no intermission, but they had a ‘contest’ between a ‘fake audience member’ and a lucky member of the audience. The first prize was a year supply of 50’s style shampoo, (fake prize of course). When the announcer asked for a volunteer you better believe my hand was the first to shoot up. He picked me! I missed a couple of the questions, which were silly things that I knew I just couldn’t remember on the spot, like where Ethel Mertz was from. Well, let me tell you I WILL NEVER FORGET SHE IS FROM NEW MEXICO EVER AGAIN! Haha! They did give me a consultation prize which was AMAZING. A tote bag autographed by the cast and some I Love Lucy goodies!

    For all of you Lucy fans who say the show cannot be replaced, let me tell you something, YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY correct. They are not trying to replace the show at all, they are just trying to bring back some of the magic and they do an EXCELLENT job! It is a DEFINITE MUST SEE!

    To all the cast, brava! Fabulous!

    Melissa J.
    Just another HUGE I Love Lucy fan from Oklahoma!

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