BWW Interviews: Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta talk I Love Lucy Live! in Toronto
I Love Lucy Live takes the stage in Toronto next week - and marks the first time these iconic characters have been tackled live on stage. The foursome you know and love - Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel, comes to life at The Royal Alex Theatre (which will become the Desilu Playhouse soundstage) and they're backed by the Ricky Ricardo Orchestra and the Crystaltone Singers.
BWW sat down to talk with Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta who have been touring the United States playing the iconic Lucy and Ricky. They discuss the challenges associated with tackling such beloved roles, the unique comedy needed for 'Lucy' and why this is a show that is truly universal.
First off, congratulations on I Love Lucy Live and bringing the show to Toronto! Have either of you performed in Toronto before?
SI: No, I haven't. I am so looking forward to it! I have heard wonderful things about Toronto.
BM: My first time in Canada was last week for our press meet and greet.
What are you most looking forward to about the city?
SI: I'm looking forward to exploring Toronto by bike! I just bought one in Buffalo that's from the early 1960's - 3 speeds - so you know I'm rolling in style! By bike or foot is really how I most enjoy exploring a city - getting to know the little enclaves, discovering the local music and art scenes - the interesting restaurants and vintage shops. I'm really looking forward to getting to know Toronto. And I would love suggestions from locals! People can find me on twitter - @sirena_Irwin I know I must see the David Bowie exhibition at AGO and I hope I get to catch a performance from Tafelmusik. My mother, Margaret Irwin-Brandon, was the conductor of a Baroque Orchestra (playing on period instruments) in Western Massachusetts for 14 years. Needless to say, I have a deep love and appreciation for Baroque music.
BM: Toronto is a beautiful city. I look forward to exploring it--walking around neighborhoods, discovering nice places to eat, and getting to know a bit of the culture of Canada. I am looking forward to a trip up to the top of the CN Tower and catching a Raptors game.
Have you found the audience reaction differs much as you travel across the country? Or is 'Lucy' truly universal?
SI: Lucy is absolutely universal - and it's probably no surprise to hear that the show and, of course, the incredible Lucille Ball are deeply loved by people all across North America and beyond. However I have found it interesting that there are indeed regional responses that differ ever so slightly. Sometimes, where we have gotten big laughs, they lessen a bit, and where we were getting titters, we start getting big laughs. I haven't gotten to the bottom of it - but I find it fascinating.
BM: I would say that the humor and joy of what the show brings is universal. I feel that once an audience is involved for the ride, they can go back in time and enjoy the journey of seeing this show live like it was 1952.
I Love Lucy was applauded for its unique and original use of comedy, with Lucille Ball being one of America's first grand comediennes. What's it like having to tackle that kind of material and did either of you have an extensive background in comedy?
SI: It is both terrifying and extraordinarily exciting to have the opportunity to get to do this incredible material! We both feel it is a great honor to do these roles and we don't take lightly the responsibility of bringing Lucy and Ricky Ricardo to life. Our audiences have a great deal of love for the show - for these characters. "I Love Lucy" has brought a great deal of joy to people around the globe and it is our job to keep that love - that humor - that joy - alive and thriving in our production of "I Love Lucy Live On Stage."
My career has consisted primarily of comedic ventures. I've been in multiple sketch/improv groups - studied with the groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and have done lots of physical comedy in theatre productions, TV, film and as a voice-over actor (on Spongebob Squarepants and Stan Lee's Stripperella, etc.).