By Ryan Wallace
Pulling back the veil of the 1950’s television industry and bringing the audience into the screen, “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” has audiences rising in applause.
Bringing to life the iconic characters of Lucy & Ricky Ricardo, the national tour of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” opened last night at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa with a full house of lifetime Lucy fans, and closed with applause.
Stepping into the Segerstrom Center, audience members were immediately transported into a replica of the 1952 Desilu Playhouse studio—fit with applause sign and a behind-the-scenes host. Taking audience members through a nostalgic experience back in time, from curtain call to close the production allowed the audience members to fall into their own roles, as the sensory experience took cast and crowd alike back to the 1950’s.
Before the time of color televisions and digital reels, the hit comedic sitcom I Love Lucy brought sharp wit and timeless humor to audiences of the 50’s. Continuing to serve as a beacon for classic American comedy with newer generations, Lucille Ball’s signature antics and charming schemes to this day garner applause with audiences including Baby-Boomers and Millennials alike. With 179 original episodes that are recognizable to all, and the title as the Best TV Show of All Time, the stage adaptation of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” took on a great feat in creating two new episodes fitting the original classic and establishing a cast that could handle the roles.
Playing to the advantages of a behind-the-scenes look, the production creates a mirage of the original I Love Lucy set and cast—convincing enough for Lucille Ball herself. From a miniature version of Ricky’s Tropicana Club to Lucy’s crying fits, everything met expectations without a flaw. Combining classic schemes, witty retort and simple punchlines, the comedic aspects of the show offer the audience barrels full of laughter without being adulterated with obscenities or unnecessary vulgarity—a virtue lost in recent years. But even more, the show provides the full experience of a live studio audience, from missed lines between Lucy and Ethel to live advertisement skits. Brylcream, Alka Seltzer, and Chevrolet were amongst the jingles sung in-between filming, but the most memorable may have been a simple cream cleanser ad. With a live-demonstration, showing how dirt was removed twice as good with one cream cleanser than leading competitors, the audience realized just how different a time the 50’s were—did I forget to mention the dirt was made “just radioactive enough to set off a Geiger counter”?
Lucy & Ricky (played by Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta) took lead of the stage, recreating America’s favorite couple, and Fred & Ethel Mertz (played by Kevin Remington and Joanna Daniels) were the lovable sidekicks we remember from our childhoods in front of the television. A stunning homage to iconic characters in every aspect, the stage production should be most proud of their attention to details. The fashion, pushing boundaries at the time, was in perfect symmetry with Lucy’s style and Ricky looked just as debonair in his smoking jacket. The songs and dance performances were fitting to the era, and everything from head to toe rang true to the 1950’s.
Perhaps the largest success of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is showing audiences the people behind the iconic characters. Imbuing Lucille Ball’s zany personality and sweet demeanor, Sirena Irwin played the part of America’s sweetheart to a T, and Bill Mendieta captured Desi Arnaz’s naïve Cuban charm perfectly. Bringing forth the relatable aspect of America’s favorite comedic duo, the production increased its popularity exponentially in our hearts, as they brought back to life the people and memories we cherish from the show’s past.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan of the original “I Love Lucy” or simply someone who could use a good laugh accompanied with a one-in-a-lifetime experience, “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is a show you won’t want to miss. Imbuing iconic personas and taking audiences back to the past, “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is a comedic gem that plays to our hearts and our heads. We’re certain you too will find yourself in love with Lucy!
Playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa now through March 23rd, tickets are available online at www.scfta.org or at the box office. You won’t want to miss this limited-time engagement!