I Loved Lucy is a feast of emotions. The audience tumbles through the gamut from laughter to tears in the story of Lee Tannen, friend to the star in the last ten years of her life. This production is hugely enjoyable and beautifully performed.
Dezi Arnez once said. ‘I Love Lucy was never just the title of a television show.’ I Loved Lucy in not just the title of this play. (Lee Tannen, author).
I Loved Lucy opened last night at the Arts Theatre following two successful seasons at Jermyn Street Theatre in 2016.
Lee Tannen is the playwright having adapted the script from his best-selling memoir. With Tannen’s own relationship with the star as the origin of the material, Tannen is the main protagonist. He tapdances around Lucille Ball like a chorus boy around a diva.
Matthew Scott plays Tannen. Even when is alone on stage he is shining a light on Lucy. Scott is winning and charismatic, allowing the audience inside his character to feel as Tannen must have felt. The performance is seamless and flawless, both when Tannen is in dualogue with Lucille and, but even more strongly, when Scott breaks the fourth wall to be intimate with the audience. The effect is one of a private conversation interspersed with ‘fly on the wall’ moments.
The sun to Scott’s moon is Sandra Dickinson as the legendary Lucille Ball. Dickinson’s performance goes beyond impersonisation, not to discredit the strength of that, but the delivery reaches through to revive the gems and breathe fresh life into the memory of the mercurial Lucy.
The direction by Anthony Biggs must be responsible for the lovely ebb and flow in this production. Clearly there has been significant collaboration between the director, the playwright, and the performers to deliver a show with this level of understanding.
The set design by Gregor Donnelly is too big for the play and for the space. The light boxes that spell LUCY in colours effectively defining time and space, crowd the stage with their size. Around the proscenium is a photo montage of the life and times of Lucy. It too is lit with a changing array of colours. However it is too fussy and is one element too many for the size of the venue and this two hander play.
Donnelly, however, has provided an excellent costume design with special dresses for Lucy marking the stand out events in her life.
I Loved Lucy is, thankfully, more than a homage to the acting legacy of Lucille Ball. Lucy herself says she was a no talent product of the studio system. However with the famed television sitcom, I Love Lucy, she became one of the first global household names produced by the new medium of television.
I Loved Lucy is about the life of the woman rather than her output, and so much more interesting.