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article imageReview: 'I Love Lucy - Live on Stage' in Toronto Special

By Bryen Dunn     Oct 26, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - Sometimes we just need to kick back, relax, and unplug from our daily technological lives. “I Love Lucy – Live on Stage” offers theatre-goers the opportunity to step back in time to the pre-internet/smart-phone era of the 1950’s.
This was the dawn of television, one of the major technological advances of that decade, and families were beginning to gather around their sets to watch the latest sitcoms. By far the most popular one was I Love Lucy, which later spun off into The Lucy Show. Now, sixty years later our entertainment is thrown at us in multiple mediums, one of them still being live theatre.
This current production of “I Love Lucy – Live on Stage” had its world premiere in Los Angeles two years ago, and has since had a stop in Chicago and now here in Toronto at the Royal Alexander Theatre. The premise is based around the theatre audience playing the role of the studio audience for a live taping at the CBS Desilu Studios in Hollywood. MC Maury keeps things rolling as two episodes are taped, interspersed with some audience interaction, and live commercial breaks.
This “behind the scenes” looking at what’s involved with the production of a television show is quite simplistic and not really suited for a company with the reputable standards of Mirvish. If it was a general overview of how a taping is done, and perhaps showcased a few different shows, it might have come off more entertaining. However, I Love Lucy was the longest running, most memorable show in television history, which is why there’s interest in seeing this production.
This Rick Sparks creation fails to allow the actors to develop the characters that so many have grown to love. There are very few occasions where “Lucy” gets to shine, and the audience immediately connects. The three other main characters (Ricky, Fred and Ethel) are often relegated to the sides, yet all four were essential in the success of the original television series. The audience filler and participation moments were meant to be comedic, but the theatre remained quite silent. It seemed people were there and ready to laugh, as so many likely have done while watching the series, but the majority went home without even a chuckle.
The stage set up is simply the Ricardo’s New York City apartment and the Tropicana Nightclub where the "The Ricky Ricardo Orchestra" performed. This works perfectly for the “camera crew” taping each of the two episodes, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined”, and for the Crystaltone singers to jingle and jangle their way through vintage commercials of the day. As with today, it seems television is more commercials than substance, and that’s how this theatre production came across.
Now if the theatre audience was really the studio audience, then they would have got free tickets to the taping of the real thing, but for those seeking a taste of nostalgia this is the closest one can get, and it will cost you for this murky trip down memory lane.
Now playing until November 3rd, 2013 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W. 416-872-1212
More about I Love Lucy, Mirvish, Toronto, Theatre, 1950's
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