Published: Friday, July 23, 2010
By Heidi Bitsoli, For the Daily Tribune
If you love Lucy, this one-woman show is for you.
"An Evening With Lucille Ball: 'Thank You For Asking,'" is part of the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester. The July 24 show promises to bring the "Queen of Comedy" to life thanks to the efforts of actress Suzanne LaRusch and Ball's daughter.
LaRusch wrote the play with Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, and audiences will be treated to many memorable moments, including what inspired those unforgettable "I Love Lucy" sketches and a glimpse into her fiery and complex marriage to Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. The show is in the form of lectures Ball loved to give throughout her career.
LaRusch has been doing Lucy impersonations since 1991, for theme parks, corporate parties and shows.
In 2006 she had her "light-bulb moment, (and) I came up with the present formula, which is the question and answer because she did (those)," LaRusch said. "That's how I tell her story"
LaRusch cautions audiences against expecting an evening of greatest hits.
"It's a play. We do questions and answers as if it was happening in that moment in time, but since it's a play (the voices are) recorded. You'll see me onstage saying, 'OK, how about that lady in the back ... I'm sorry, the gentleman ...,' " which are lines Ball actually said.
LaRusch counts herself a fan of Ball, but "no more than anyone else. She's a beloved icon and comedian. I've been a fan of her comedy. I'm an actress, so I'm not a Lucy fan that had to 'be' her."
LaRusch sought the advice of Ball's daughter to "get the essence of Lucy."
"She had great input, so I asked her to direct," LaRusch said about the show which came together in 2006. Arnaz eventually said yes, changing and tightening the script, "adding family intimacies and secrets."
But "it's not favorite skits at all," LaRusch said. "If you want to see 'Lucy' skits, then buy a DVD. But if you want to know the stories behind those famous skits, come and see my show (and find out) what made this lady tick."
What are some of the revelations? "You have to see the show to get a couple of the big ones," LaRusch teased. She won't give answers but she'll share such questions as: "Was Desi Arnaz the love of your life?"
In the show, "you find out how she really felt."
The show offers a behind-the-skits perspective. "We do Vitameatavegamin as a flashback" because people always ask about it.
Also revealed: What Lucy was really drinking in that skit.
Another revelation is the infamous chocolate factory scene. "We tell the story behind the candy and find a clever way to work in the candy without having a conveyer belt on stage." Also, did she really eat all those chocolates? Listen and learn.
Also revealed: Ball's favorite episode, and it didn't involve grape-stomping, chocolate overload or Vitameatavegamin.
"An Evening with Lucille Ball: 'Thank You for Asking'" comes to Meadow Brook Music Festival on the Oakland University campus in Rochester Hills at 8 p.m. July 24. Tickets are $22.50 reserved pavilion and $15 general admission pavilion at Palacenet.com, The Palace Box Office and Ticketmaster locations. Special Superfan seating is available. Tickets may also be charged by phone to American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard by calling (800) 745-3000.