Seeing Red: I Love Lucy Live on Stage Rolls into Boston

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Posted December 9, 2013 by Stephanie Rineman in Theater & Arts
I Love Lucy Live on Stage makes its Boston debut at the historic Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre.

Are you tired, run-down, listless? Forego the Vitameatavegamin and opt instead for the engaging glimpse into American TV history that is I Love Lucy Live on Stage, now playing at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre.

I admit it: I had my doubts. How is it possible to recreate one of the most beloved television shows of all time? How could a musical capture the spontaneity of the early live TV audience, or the many idiosyncrasies of Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo. And in color?

After attending the premiere on December 3, it’s obvious why the Boston Globe singled out I Love Lucy Live on Stage as the To Do List Pick of the Day. Massachusetts native Sirena Irwin embodies the role of Lucy so perfectly that not one piece of her performance feels artificial or unnatural. From the redhead’s infamous off-tune singing to that trademark teeth-grinding sound that emits just as she realizes she’s really gone and done it this time, every pitch and mannerism is right on point. Bill Mendieta delivers a suitable sparring partner in the role of Ricky Ricardo, her Cuban bandleader husband who made English-language mispronunciation funny long before Sofía Vergara made that her stamp on Modern Family.

The Boston leg goes from December 3-22.

The Boston leg goes from December 3-22. Photo Credit: Stephanie Rineman

The performance brings neighbors Fred and Ethel along for a re-enactment of “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined,” two episodes from the show’s six-year run, with a bit of a time-travel twist: we are part of the original 1952 audience at the Desilu Playhouse soundstage. The soundstage host emerges between scenes to tell us all about the tricks of the television trade and the wonderful new “hi-fidelity” equipment as the actors rush to take their places in the iconic settings of the Ricardo’s New York apartment and the Tropicana Club. The show provides just enough of this behind-the-scenes intel to keep it entertaining, but never tedious. During commercials, the Crystaltone Singers fill in the void with live jingles for Brylcreem and Chevrolet that encapsulate the economic boom of the 50s and the early days of television advertising.

I Love Lucy Live on Stage premiered in October 2011 at Greenway Court Theatre in Los Angeles, and has since done a stint in the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago. The current 15-city tour began at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City on July 19, and will travel throughout the country before ending in Clearwater, Florida in June 2014.

The show wraps up in Boston on December 22. Take some time out of the holiday hustle and bustle to sit down with Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel to revel in a time when television was a carefully crafted art form, still decades away from the unabashed inanity of any and all things Kardashian. Your brain will thank you.

Have you already seen the show and still can’t get enough? I Love Lucy was a small-screen pioneer when it premiered on CBS in 1951, and remains in syndication all over the world today. The show was the original rerun, and this month, CBS will honor its history with the airing of two colorized episodes, including a rarely seen Christmas special, along with the better-known grape-stomping episode.

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