Everybody Loves Lucy

Everybody Loves Lucy
By Elise McCann and Richard Carroll. Hayes Theatre Co., Sydney. June 4 – 6, 2014.

TV’s best-loved comedienne of the 1950s, Lucille Ball, is a delightful fit for Elise McCann in a tribute that feels more like a short play with music than a cabaret in the conventional sense.

Beforehand I wondered what inspired a triple threat performer with a stunning voice to base her cabaret show around Lucille Ball, a wonderful zany comic, notorious for her vocal range of just three notes.

Well, Ms McCann cheats a little in that department, with a couple of extra songs which give greater vent to her vocal range and dynamics, but Everybody Loves Lucy dives far deeper into her considerable talents – for physical comedy, recreating Lucy’s uncanny genius with zest, while touchingly portraying the deep underlying pathos of the classic clown, revealed beautifully as the very real humanity and vulnerability of the woman, wife and mother behind the performer.

Beginning in 1951, brimming with humanity, truth and humour, the show focuses on Lucy’s 10 year on-screen collaboration with husband Desi Arnaz (played with a great sense of fun by musical director Nigel Ubrihien) and the parallel downfall of their real-life relationship.

Everybody Loves Lucy is splendidly written, snappy and lean. Ms McCann simply becomes Lucy, taking us on her journey in character, without any cheesy cabaret narrative bits. When it comes to revealing Lucy’s impact on the American psyche, she transforms into an everywoman American housewife, highlighting the huge role model that Lucy became to a generation of American women, and how better to express Lucy’s feelings on the breakdown of her marriage than in a live interview. There’s a snapshot of another era too, in a live cigarette ad, lots of Lucy and Desi’s on-screen banter and a delicious extended physical comedy routine in trademark Lucy style. A backstage scene reveals the hard-working perfectionist behind the apparently effortless, spontaneous comedienne.

Helen Dallimore’s deft, clean direction ensures a light, bright style, with splendid variation of pace, on the simplest of settings.

At about an hour in length, you can’t help but feel the potential for a fuller theatrical version, so rich and intriguing is the character of this flame-haired trailblazer. At least a couple of additional physical comedy routines would top of my wish list, while the songs aren’t specific to Lucy’s career in the 1950s, so perhaps room could be found for one I’d half-anticipated, ‘Hey Look Me Over’, the three note range showstopper written by Cy Coleman for Lucy’s subsequent Broadway showcase Wildcat.

Everybody Loves Lucy is a delicious opening to the Hayes Theatre Co's initial cabaret season. It's touring, so catch it as part of a cabaret festival near you.

Neil Litchfield 

Photorapher: Kurt Sneddon

Click here for full season details of the Hayes Theatre Co 2014 Cabaret Festival

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