Tuesday, 27 January 2015 14:17

A Lucy Valentine

Written by  Allison Parker
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Broadway Grand Rapids presents I Love Lucy Live on Stage
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids
Feb. 10-12, 7:30 p.m.
broadwaygrandrapids.com, (616) 235-6285

Audiences for I Love Lucy Live on Stage expect to enter an auditorium and watch. What they actually do is enter a time machine and join. Presenting Lucy for the first time live and in color, this special production whisks audiences back to the ‘50s, where they become the studio audience for the filming of two "I Love Lucy" episodes.

TV lovers enter nostalgia heaven as a host introduces them to the technological novelty that is television. The vintage vibe continues even between acts, with "I Love Lucy" sponsors, The Crystaltone Singers, performing old-school advertising jingles. There’s even a period game show for audiences to try their luck at as well.

At the heart of the show are staged versions of two actual "I Love Lucy" episodes—"The Benefit" and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined." Both episodes share a common theme of Lucy trying to get into showbiz and both are chock-full of farcical Lucy shenanigans. The first episode features our feisty heroine sabotaging one of Ricky’s speeches, while the second reveals her staggering around nearly blind.

When selecting these particular adventures, the production’s creators sifted through all 179 "I Love Lucy" episodes to find ones that would be feasible and fresh. The presence of musical numbers and all four lead characters was also a must.

As far as adapting these episodes for the stage, the production’s cast and crew continually make careful adjustments to proportion artifice with verisimilitude.

“Translating a TV show for theatre purposes is always a challenge for the director and the cast,” said Thea Brooks, who plays Lucy. “We all have to work to find a level of truth that exists in a sort of heightened state. .... We’re gonna be projecting the lines and the emotions and the choreography up to a higher level than we would otherwise if it was just being filmed—so just you know, kicking it up a notch but then keeping it truthful at the same time—that balancing act.”

An additional hurdle for the onstage production comes from diehards of the TV series who view the new version with suspicion and anxiety. I Love Lucy Live on Stage responds to these fears by claiming only to celebrate its source material, not replace it.

“I think some people, if they are giant 'Lucy' fans, they’re a little afraid to see what’s being done with it, but we call it a valentine to the 'I Love Lucy 'show, what we are doing, and I think that’s true. It’s a tribute—we aren’t imitating anybody. It’s just in honor of the show,” Brooks said.

Other Performing Arts Events

Opera Grand Rapids presents Noah's Flood
Fountain Street Church, Grand Rapids
Feb. 13-15, show times at 3 & 7:30 p.m.
$12.25-$27.50, students: $5
operagr.org, (616) 451-2741

Local artists, students and professionals will join Opera Grand Rapids in retelling the famous tale of Noah’s Ark. The production’s high point is a spectacular animal parade during which the audience is invited to sing along. An additional musical treat comes later on, when an assortment of atypical instruments create the sounds of the savage storm.

Grand Rapids Ballet presents Swan Lake
Peter Martin Wege Theatre, Grand Rapids
Feb. 6-8, 13-15; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
grballet.com, (616) 454-4771

When Prince Siegfried goes swan hunting, he is astonished to see one of his would-be prey transform into a beautiful young woman. The maiden is actually the Swan Queen Odette, cursed to remain a swan until a prince makes her a vow of everlasting love. Prince Siegfried attempts to break with spell, but an evil sorcerer tricks him into declaring his adoration to the wrong woman. This tragic love story from Tchaikovsky remains one of ballet’s finest.

Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo
Feb. 27, 8 p.m.
millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300

An innovative troupe that blends dance, theatre and percussion, STOMPuses a variety of everyday objects to create terrific rhythms. In one of the group’s most famous numbers, performers play a dance-like basketball game in which the bouncing balls provide mesmerizing beats. Other unlikely instruments in the production include matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans and more.

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