Revival is a strange word.  It suggests something rescued from its deathbed and shocked into fresh vigour by an infusion of talent, or money, or inspiration.  In the case of I Loved Lucy, the corpse seems retrieved from the morgue only to die again in public.

I wouldn’t have re-reviewed it, except to underline how disappointing it is to both critics and audiences when producers and writers take no heed of what they were told so plainly on a first outing.  Even without the wrecking ball of Lyn Gardner’s latest one-star review, the team behind I Loved Lucy could have read in many publications on both sides of the Atlantic how badly biased the piece was towards the subjective opinion and dubious likeability of the ‘Lee’ character, and not enough about Lucille Ball, her career, her family, or her inner thoughts.  I particularly admired Scott Matthewman’s assessment that the writer couldn’t get past the first word of the title.

The changes since I saw it at Jermyn Street are slight – a couple of songs are introduced to suit the undoubted talents of Matthew Scott, and Sandra Dickinson still delivers an impressive, earthy, and generous rendition of Lucille Ball.  What once had the redeeming feature of intimacy, as though you were actually crowding into Lucy’s kitchen, is now lost on a bigger stage with ‘Lucy’ in giant illuminated letters.  I think it’s meant to echo the Hollywood sign but it looks like the cheapest of cable chat shows.

I hope Scott has some meetings with casting directors while in London, it would be a pity if this were his last opportunity to shine in a London show.

Lee Tannen bills himself as author and playwright, and one of each does qualify him: but is reticent about anything else he wrote apart from the book about Lucille Ball and the play based on the book about Lucille Ball which has now been produced with limited success in Orange County, in New York and twice in London. Perhaps it’s this lack of broader literary or theatrical experience means the project is doomed to endless rewrites by the same uncollaborative hand.  If so, it must remain a vanity project.

Given over to a more experienced dramatist licensed with the freedom to take an objective perspective about this odd couple friendship between Ball and her very distant gay relative-by-marriage who seems to have moved right across America to become her backgammon-playing poodle for ten years, and perhaps flesh out the story to include her husband, children and co-stars, this could have legs.

Till then, to borrow the Hillary Clinton phrase and attach it to Lyn Gardner:  I’m with her.


until 2 September