The conceit of I Love Lucy – Live on Stage is that we are the audience for the live taping of two episodes of the "I Love Lucy" television show. As the studio audience, theatergoers have interaction with the cast, and even a bit of onstage audience participation for one lucky person. Not only are the episodes presented, but there's plenty of behind-the-scenes hoopla as well, such as wardrobe changes, dealing with miscues by the TV show cast, and the warming up of the audience before the filming. Much of the stage show consists of seeing the early fifties televised commercials (with associated song and dance jingles performed by the Crystaltone Singers), again adding to the retro feel of the time period.
The stage event was adapted by Rick Sparks and Kim Flagg, with Mr. Sparks providing direction and musical staging as well. The two episodes, "The Benefit" and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined," are fairly faithfully recreated with great skill, and the entire proceedings are professionally and slickly rendered, with a quick pace and smooth transitions throughout. The episodes themselves are very funny, and transfer effectively to the stage.
The show bills itself as a "New Musical Stage Event," but it isn't a musical in the typical sense. There is plenty of music in the form of the commercials presented and some of the numbers performed by Ricky Ricardo and his orchestra within the episodes, but the characters don't sing, other than reproducing those TV moments (except for an odd three-song medley by the aforementioned Crystaltone Singers) midway through the intermissionless (at just under two hours) show. Most of the songs are from the original advertisements or TV broadcasts, but there is some original material supplied by Wayne Moore. Andy Belling serves as Music Director and leads the talented on-stage band.
As Lucy, Thea Brooks skillfully inhabits the famous comedienne's zany look, mannerisms, and line readings, and is a gifted physical comic. Euriamis Losada is a native Cuban like Ricky Ricardo, sings beautifully, and likewise conveys the nuances of his character convincingly. Lori Hammel is a very appealing Ethel Mertz, and Kevin Remington captures the gruffness of Fred Mertz well. Mark Christopher Tracy is the host of the evening and has a commanding stage presence. The remaining nine cast members perform multiple roles both within the episodes, staged commercials, and behind-the scenes antics.
The effective set design by Aaron Henderson consists of the TV studio trappings of cameras and aptly gaudy, '50s style gold curtains, as well as accurate recreations of the Ricardo living room and Ricky's nightclub. The costumes by Shon LeBlanc and Kelly Bailey are period appropriate and fun. David George's lighting is theatrical, and captures the TV effects as well.
I Love Lucy – Live On Stage is humorous, well performed, and likeable. However, while it's certainly a crowd pleaser, it's also slight and safe, and has a lot of filler moments (including too many of the corny commercials). As a season extra, it would be fine, but this isn't really a Broadway show, so its inclusion as part of the Broadway in Cincinnati season is a bit questionable.
I Love Lucy – Live On Stage continues at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati through June 14, 2015. Tickets can be ordered by calling (800) 294-1816. For more information on the tour, please visit www.ilovelucylive.com/.