Theater Review: I Love Lucy Live on Stage

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Take a step back in time to the 1950s to experience the re-enactment of two episodes from one of TV's legendary sitcoms.

I Love Lucy Live on Stage (Jan. 14- Feb. 2; All ages)
TPAC’s Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $35 – $75

Classic TV nostalgia has never been better served in any form of current-day reincarnation than I Love Lucy Live on Stage that’s at TPAC through Sunday, Feb. 2. A lot of stage shows based on classic TV and movie fare tend to miss the mark. That’s not the case with I Love Lucy. This is an absolutely fun jaunt into the days of long ago with a peek inside the famed Desilu Productions studio where two episodes of I Love Lucy are re-enacted on the stage.

The two episodes — “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined” — give the TPAC audience a walk into television history in the 1950s as if it is the television studio audience at Desilu. Sirena Irwin (Lucy Ricardo), Bill Mendieta (Ricky Ricardo), Kevin Remington (Fred Mertz) and Joanna Daniels (Ethel Mertz) bring to life the four timeless characters with much flair, and the audience experience includes being prompted to “APPLAUSE” at appropriate junctures. What’s even more fun is the reproductions of classic commercials for the audience during set and wardrobe changes — everything ranging from Alka-Seltzer to Brylcreem, which no doubt make audience members of a certain age nostalgic for their youth. Mark Christopher Tracy is energetic in his role as the emcee to get the audience revved up and initiating a trivia game with an actual audience member.

Irwin is visually stunning as Lucy, and her delivery is good for the most part. The only misstep is that she often seems like she’s in slow motion both in lines and movement. If you’re familiar with the TV show, this is highly noticeable compared to the faster-paced delivery that Lucille Ball brought to the character. Irwin’s high-kicking “Jitterbug” dance routine in “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined” is one of the most entertaining parts of the entire show.

Remington and Daniels are impeccable as the Ricardo’s friends (and landlords), Fred and Ethel, but Mendieta stands out as the biggest talent on the stage playing Ricky. Truly the most difficult role in the show, Mendieta perfectly nails it from Ricky’s Cuban accent and broken English to the occasional tirade in Spanish (complete with flailing arms!).

I Love Lucy Live on Stage is certainly a fun family show and one that is most appreciated by fans of the show that became the standard for all sitcoms to this day by its innovation of using a multiple camera setup and adjacent sets in front of a live audience.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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