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BWW Reviews: Nostalgic I LOVE LUCY LIVE ON STAGE at the Peabody Opera House

When I was growing up, I Love Lucy was a morning television staple, even though it had been off the air for many years. Reality shows have since replaced pretty much all of the stuff I grew up on, at least on the major networks, but you can still find the re-runs on stations like Me TV, which cater to the boomer generation with their lineup of classic programs. If you were lucky enough to be at the Peabody Opera House this weekend (April 17-19, 2015), you had the opportunity to see a recreation of two episodes of this iconic show with their presentation of I Love Lucy Live on Stage. This touring production is one you should definitely check out if you're into nostalgia, or just need a good laugh.

The show presents the episodes"The Benefit" and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined" (originally written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh, and Bob Carroll Jr.), with live commercial breaks for products like Halo shampoo, Palmolive soap, Alka Seltzer, and Chevrolet. I Love Lucy was a unique show for its time, being filmed by master cinematographer Karl Freund (he shot the atmospheric original The Mummy in 1932 for Universal, along with a number of other classic films), utilizing a then ground-breaking technique which featured three cameras and adjacent sets to capture the action in front of live studio audience. We're also treated to some musical numbers (sung by the Crystaltones) that hark back to a time when pop music was decidedly more innocent in nature. And, there's also a trivia contest that takes places between episodes.

Thea Brooks plays Lucy Ricardo, and though no one can really ever replace Lucille Ball's comic presence, she brings a lot of energy and a true sense of fun to the role. Euriamis Losada is terrific as her Cuban bandleader husband, Ricky (Desi Arnaz). He has the accent and malaprops down perfectly, and he also provides some very strong vocals, along with Ricky's trademark laugh. Together, they manage to pull off the difficult task of bringing these characters to the stage in believable fashion. Kevin Remington is great as Fred Mertz (William Frawley), and Lori Hammel also does splendid work in the role of Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). They're joined by a very fine supporting cast that includes: Sara Jayne Blackmore, Sarah Elizabeth Combs, Gregory Franklin, Jody Madaras, Carlos Martin, Denise Moses, Cindy Sciacca, Kami Seymour, Richard Strimer, and Mark Christopher Tracy, who all play a multitude of parts.

Rich Sparks stages and directs, as well as adapting the show along with Kim Flagg, and it's a nicely conceived production that provides a thoroughly pleasant evening for people of all ages (particularly since any cigarette usage or commercials are excised). The original sets are lovingly recreated by Aaron Henderson, and so are the period costumes by Shon LeBlanc and Kelly Bailey. Andy Belling's music direction is also sharp, with nice arrangements provided by Wayne Moore. David George keeps it all lit well, and Diane Martinous and Judi Lewin do good work with a plethora of hair and wig designs that ring true.

I Love Lucy Live on Stage is a genuinely enjoyable experience that takes us back to a simpler time, when jokes didn't rely on overt sex references or crude humor, and situations were neatly resolved within the allotted network time slot. In other words, you didn't have to see every show in order to figure out what was going on. I took my young son along with me and he loved it, and I think you will too. Be sure to catch it when it comes to your city.


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From This Author Chris Gibson