I’ll be the first one to admit that I love Lucy. I really do. I mean, don’t we all? “I Love Lucy”, starring groundbreaking comedienne Lucille Ball, was once an essential part of nearly every American’s Monday nights and, frankly, calling the smash hit iconic would be an understatement. Lucille’s unmatched spunk and charming chemistry with husband Desi Arnaz had Americans tuning in every week, and who could blame them? Even today, 40 million people still watch I Love Lucy reruns per year, proving that us Americans still indeed love Lucy.
Walking into Minneapolis’ State Theater to see the live stage version of “I Love Lucy”, I was definitely skeptical. How could they recreate such legendary material without the talented actors we know and love? As it turns out, I was right to be skeptical, but for all the wrong reasons.
“I Love Lucy Live on Stage” recreates two of the more obscure “Lucy” episodes (“The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined”) while maintaining impressive accuracy to the real thing. Thea Brooks (although lacking the natural likability that Lucille possessed) emulated Lucy’s timing, mannerisms, physicality, and voice beautifully and had me laughing out loud more than a few times. Euriamis Losada as Ricky Ricardo could not have been more charming. Although he bears almost no resemblance to Desi Arnaz, Losada recreates Ricky Ricardo’s performance stunningly, while also throwing his own unique spin on the character. And you just can’t help but notice his brilliant Hollywood smile and breath taking singing voice. Kevin Remington and Lori Hemmel’s renditions of the vibrant Fred and Ethel Mertz were equally as spot on. The true standout aspect though, were the costumes by Shon LeBlanc. I was completely in awe of each and every stunning outfit. They were what made me believe we were really in the 1950’s more than anything else.
That is where my compliments end. The show’s structure is made to make us feel like we’re attending a real live taping of “I Love Lucy” complete with a corny host guiding us through a lengthy opening monologue, endless classic 1950’s commercials for sponsors like Chevrolet or Brylcreem, and painful audience participation. The night even included pulling an audience member for an “I Love Lucy” quiz complete with prizes. The original episodes were only about 25 minutes each so the “I Love Lucy” portions of “I Love Lucy Live on Stage” really only take up 50 minutes of the 90 minute show, and let me tell you, the 40 minutes of kitschy song and dance were not exactly keeping me on the edge of my seat.
So ultimately, if you grew up with Lucy and you’re looking for some nostalgia, go see “I Love Lucy Live on Stage”. Those 50 minutes will probably be worth sitting through the other 40, and you might even enjoy some of the 40 yourselves. But if you’re not particularly in love with Lucy, then I would suggest you skip this one.