REVIEW: I Loved Lucy, The Arts Theatre

Following two runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre, Lee Tannen’s affectionate portrayal of his friendship with Lucille Ball is as funny and as touching as ever. 

I LOVED LUCY 4 Sandra Dickinson bas Lucille Ball and Matthew Scott as Lee Tannen Photo Alessia Chinazzo
Sandra Dickinson as Lucille Ball and Matthew Scott as Lee. (c)Alessia Chinazzo. 

Lee Tannen’s play about his friendship with Lucille Ball is filled with many wonderful stories about her career and life – but also reveals a comedienne and actress who became increasingly vulnerable as she grew older, brought to wonderful life through the direction of Anthony Biggs.

With a set framed with pictures of Lucy, it is never in question that Lucille Ball is at the heart of the story – but it also feels (in comparison to the play’s run at the Jermyn Street Theatre last year) more developed and structured than when I last saw it. Lee Tannen’s character has been developed further, to give more of a balance to proceedings – without losing that affection and bond between the pair.

Throughout the production, the warmth and heartwarming moments between Lee and Lucy are beautifully highlighted with humour and sharp wittedness from both characters, thanks to Lee Tannen’s ability to really get to the heart of Lucy’s character helped by his deep knowledge of her behaviour. This in turn means that the production always feels natural, comfortable and intimate (despite the size of the stage).

But what also really lifts the production is the two contrasting performances from Sandra Dickinson as Lucy as Matthew Scott as Lee – both complimenting each other well, allowing each to have their moment to shine. Matthew Scott, making his West End debut, is wonderfully grounded and natural, his presence and sharpness in comic timing really engages the audience.

But it is Sandra Dickinson as Lucy who delivers a truly dynamic performance. Every line and witty comeback is a delight to listen to, while at the same time capturing her character’s vulnerability that becomes increasingly heart wrenching to watch.

Anthony Biggs has created a production that is energetic and dynamic from beginning to end and has plenty to offer audiences who might not have seen  the television series I Loved Lucy – particularly in terms of humour.

But the difficulty for those who haven’t seen an episode of I loved Lucy or known anything about Lucille Ball, some of the names and characters that are referenced in the play might not be familiar and can be difficult to place into the story – for example Desi Arnaz (her first husband), who is constantly referenced but only in the vaguest way. This isn’t helped by the way in which the play shifts from time to time with the stories featured – ranging from from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.

I Loved Lucy is ideal for those searching for nostalgia and adored Lucille Ball, but for newcomers to her career it is still warm and engaging entertainment which makes you want to explore her life even more. An affectionate and entertaining production.

I loved Lucy will play at the Arts Theatre until the 2nd September. To book tickets visit: See, Discount, Last, Theatre Tickets, Love, Theatre and UK . 

Rating: ❤❤❤❤

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