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June 24, 2015

I Love Lucy Live on Stage

Photo Courtesy: I Love Lucy Live on Stage (Credit: Justin Namon)
Who doesn't love Lucy? The hit television series I Love Lucy aired on CBS from 1951 to 1957, setting the bar for television comedies that continues to be the standard to this day. This is one show that has endeared itself to generation after generation, with absolutely no sign of slowing down. I was not yet born during the original airing of I Love Lucy. In fact, my mother wasn't even born until the series reached its end... but I grew up loving Lucy. Lucille Ball was the first female actress that truly made an impression on me. Growing up, Lucy was my hero. I continue to watch episode reruns any chance I get - and they simply never get old. Though my own children have very little appreciation for entertainment dated before their time, they have always loved the series. Frankly, this is the only pre-80s show that they have ever enjoyed. It's also one of the very few series that sparks hysterical laughter from every member of my household, every single time we tune in. As a Lucy fan, and as a mother, I appreciate this immeasurably. Last night, I found myself living a dream. I sat in on a live taping of my lifelong favorite series - I Love Lucy


Photo Courtesy: I Love Lucy Live on Stage (Credit: Justin Namon)
No, you didn't read that wrong. Perhaps it took just a tiny smidge of imagination, but my family was quite literally transported to a time we never knew as we visited 1952 Hollywood and the Desilu Playhouse! Last night was opening night for I Love Lucy Live on Stage at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts here in Orlando. This brilliant stage show debuted in Los Angeles at the Greenway Court Theatre in October 2011 to rave reviews, with many subsequent performances nationwide. 

The premise of the show is quite unique. Guests are invited to serve as the live audience for a taping of two well-known episodes of I Love Lucy - "The Benefit", and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined". The performance is rounded out with era-authentic product endorsements in the form of catchy jingles, and a behind-the-scenes style glimpse of real production processes. All the while, a lively and jolly host leads the audience through the experience. 
Photo Courtesy: I Love Lucy Live on Stage (Credit: Justin Namon)
The show is just over 90 minutes of music and comedy, featuring a collection of charismatic characters that perfectly replicate the cast of the original series. Thea Brooks would undoubtedly impress Lucille Ball herself, as she has every signature Lucy look and utterance down to a t. To the delight of any fan, she wore some of Lucy's most recognizable wardrobes to complete the package. Euriamis Losada was an absolute spot-on Ricky Ricardo as well. And, don't discount the challenge that must pose - even with Losada's Cuban roots! Every Ricky "misspeak", and some of his most beloved lines were pulled off flawlessly. The audience roared when he boomed in frustration - "Lucy, you've got some 'splainin to do"! He even pulled off a fantastic rendition of "Babalu" with stunning precision.
Photo Courtesy: I Love Lucy Live on Stage (Credit: Justin Namon)
Let's not forget the affable Mertzes! Lucy's outrageous sidekick Ethel, and her lovable curmudgeon husband, Fred were simply marvelous! Portrayed by Lori Hammel and Kevin Remington respectively, the friendly neighbor landlords were practically reincarnated for this performance. Hammel and Remington had the mannerisms, the voices, and the expressions in such perfect re-creation that you'd have to do a double-take in an effort to convince yourself that you truly are watching a tribute. Even then, you'll doubt that you really still are planted right here in 2015. 

Flanked by an elaborate, but small troupe of quick-change performers serving as entertainment during "commercial breaks", the main cast is only part of the spellbinding talent to cross the stage. The audience is encouraged to laugh out loud, and it is positively impossible not to. From time to time, I found myself glancing at my children for reactions. Each time, I caught wide smiles and chuckles. That warmed my heart. As the show came to a close (of course, to an enthusiastic standing ovation), I found myself tearing up. It was just that real, and it was a powerhouse of nostalgia that anyone from my generation should appreciate and enjoy. 

I Love Lucy Live on Stage will only grace Orlandoans from June 23-28. Do NOT miss this unparalleled event! Ticket prices start at $33.75, and are available at DrPhillipsCenter.org