When the original “I Love Lucy” began airing in the 1950s, it brought something new to the screen that people had rarely seen before: A comedy led by a female character and her foreign husband. At the time it was both fresh and endearing, which made it a wild success. Sixty years later, I Love Lucy – Live on Stage is delightful for different reasons. The show’s simplicity provides a perfect evening of good old-fashioned fun.
I Love Lucy is two episodes of “I Love Lucy” plucked straight from the archives and performed in front of a live studio audience, complete with commercials and games to keep the audience entertained while set are moved and lights are readjusted.
From the very beginning of the show, it feels as though one has entered a time machine and emerged in 1952, in a studio in the Desilu Playhouse in Hollywood, California. The set is built with the three-sided Ricardo apartment at half stage height, surrounded by cameras and curtains hiding Ricky’s club. The remaining upper half of the stage contains the production lights and an applause sign. It looks just like an old television studio would look.
The show works hard to make the audience feel like a real live studio audience. They take it one step further by inviting a certain audience member to participate in the fun. This audience member, the lovely Mrs. Birdie Mae Figg, rises blushing and in full 50’s costume, from amongst the crowd. Denise Moses plays her spectacularly and hilariously opposite Mark Christopher Tracey as the host.
The entire cast of I Love Lucy are wonderfully in sync with one another, which adds to the show’s charm. Every moment was clean and endearingly overacted. From the Ricardos hosting a dinner party to the Crystaltone Singers advertizing Alka-Seltzer, each actor is bursting with enthusiasm. Particularly impressive is Thea Brooks as Lucy. She played the naive yet determined title character with immeasurable talent, so that each line got roaring laughter in response. It is extremely difficult to play a character who cannot sing or dance, but Brooks was up to the challenge and put on a perfectly not-quite-fabulous show.
Although I Love Lucy is not a musical, the show does contain several delightful songs. Not only are there advertisements disguised as musical numbers, the Ricardos and the Mertzs sing and dance as well. Euriamis Losada as Ricky Ricardo shows off his stellar singing voice at his club. Lucy learns the jitterbug.
While charming, the show is blessedly short. With only one act and no intermission, it falls in that perfect time where any less would be too short, and any more would have been far too long. Just when you’re wondering when the show will end, it does, and it leaves you with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.