xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

'I Love Lucy Live on Stage' over-stuffed, but diverting

There is a promising idea at the heart of "I Love Lucy Live on Stage," the heavy-on-the-nostalgia production at the Hippodrome.

To provide a taste of how the beloved 1950s sitcom about the Ricardos and Mertzes was made, two episodes are re-created on a set designed to conjure up the Hollywood studio where "I Love Lucy" was filmed before a live audience.

Advertisement

Unfortunately, the show, directed by Rick Sparks, applies so much other stuff to milk the remember-when atmosphere that the pace and the fun deflate.

The new material, crafted by Sparks and Kim Flagg (they also adapted the original episodes), includes an emcee charged with warming up and, in between filming, diverting the audience, as well as demonstrations of the mechanics involved in making a sitcom.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Although some of this is certainly interesting, a little goes a long way.

Much more problematic are the multiple re-enactments of vintage TV, jingle-fueled commercials. A couple would be droll; a whole mess of them begins to cloy.

Flagg and Sparks make a hearty effort, but their contributions cannot help but pale alongside the scripts by original "I Love Lucy" writers Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.

As for the two episodes that are brought back to life, they wouldn't likely top anyone's list of the sitcom's greatest. Still, there's plenty of good stuff in "The Benefit" (aired January 1952) and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined" (from December 1953). Both feed off of Lucy's perennial obsession with getting into show business; both contain colorful musical numbers.

Advertisement

Euriamis Losada, as Ricky and the character's originator, Desi Arnaz, is reason enough to catch the show. The Cuban-born Losada might not hammer a conga drum as commandingly as the Cuban-born Arnaz, but everything else about his buoyant portrayal rings true. His singing voice is much warmer and firmer than Arnaz's was, another plus.

Thea Brooks, given the unenviable task of stepping into Lucille Ball's shoes, first has to step into her famously red hair. Too bad Brooks is saddled with a helmet-like wig that includes thick bangs more associated with the title character of another old TV show, "Our Miss Brooks," played by Eve Arden.

Brooks never entirely gets out from underneath that artificial weight to become a fully persuasive presence. Still, Brooks does a decent version of Lucy's famed "Ewwwww" and sob-fest.

Where she really shines is in physical comedy. Her jitterbug dance sequence in "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined" is carried off with particular flair, where she enjoys the dynamic partnering of Richard Strimer in a spot-on imitation of ultra-hip dance champion Arthur "King Kat" Walsh.

Kevin Remington does an amiable, if a little too low-keyed, job as Fred Mertz. Lori Hammel's Ethel could use more personality.

Mark Christopher Tracy gives such a natural, spirited performance as the emcee that you can almost forgive the prominence of the tacked-on role.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement