I Loved Lucy
The Arts Theatre
Reviewed – 24th July 2017
“Dickinson is majestic and totally believable”
Fans of Lucille Ball will no doubt have already bought their tickets to see I Loved Lucy, a revealing play that tells the story of her relationship with Lee Tannen in the last 10 years of her life.
Ball was for many years one of the most recognised and best loved entertainers in the world, featuring in over 80 films and hundreds of TV shows. Between 1951 and 1957 she starred in 180 episodes of I Love Lucy – a forerunner of today’s reality shows. By anyone’s measure she was the queen of comedy.
After two successful runs last year at the compact Jermyn Street Theatre, I Loved Lucy comes to the West End’s Arts Theatre, a 350 seat proscenium arch theatre for a strictly limited run until 2nd September. The new production extends the original with more content and what looks like a bigger budget.
Sandra Dickinson is again Lucy and Matthew Scott is making his West End debut as Tannen having recently been cast in the Broadway version of An American in Paris.
Tannen first met Ball as a child and formed a close relationship at a time her star was waning and when much of her time was spent away from the public gaze. In 2011 he adapted his bestselling memoir for the stage. We get a closer look at the real Lucille, what she was really like, how she felt and chose to live. It is a unique look at a unique, complicated, needy and often sad woman.
The set is quite bare with a table and chairs that are the focus for their backgammon games. There is a large Hollywood style Lucy sign to the rear and the stage is framed with historic photos of Ball, some including Tannen. Lighting is simple yet effective and both actors project well filling the auditorium with clear dialogue.
Those wanting the show to be exclusively about Ball may come away slightly disappointed as it is a series of anecdotes from Tannen’s viewpoint and his character has an equal share of this two hander.
The West End Theatreland is a competitive area for ticket sales and filling the venue may be a challenge particularly as it is likely those under 30 may not be aware of the importance of Lucille Ball who died in 1989.
However this is a show that deserves full houses as it features two quite amazing actors. Sandra Dickinson is majestic and totally believable as Ball. Her timing and presence are first class. Matthew Scott demands attention and brings Tannen to life. Both were word perfect and fully deserved the standing ovation given.
Overall this was an enjoyable theatre visit. The play is funny yet also tugs at the heart strings but mainly it is a fitting tribute to the Lucy ‘The Queen of Comedy’.
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
I LOVED LUCY
is at The Arts Theatre until 2nd September