This true story of the friendship between comedy queen Lucille Ball and the play’s author, Lee Tannen, is a gentle, heartfelt and entertaining tale.
Essential to the show’s success is Sandra Dickinson as the sit-com idol. Her frequent joyful laughter is infectious, while the foibles of a megastar, aware of her status and wealth, are fun, too.
While Lucy gets the laughs, the play is really about Tannen, an adman who finds himself in “Gay Icon Heaven” through his friendship with his childhood heroine. It’s a big role for Matthew Scott, who has to win the audience over twice – as a narrator and protagonist – while displaying an adoration most would find incredible.
The presentation of Lucy’s biography is sometimes stilted, with a touch too much taken for granted, and Scott often seems uncomfortable. But Scott succeeds in conveying Tannen’s charisma, abetted by an extensive OBCR collection (*if you have to ask…), which is obviously great preparation for any friendship.
The second act adds some invention, including an appearance by Lucy’s ghost, but the script is sweet rather than slick. Ball’s decline, professionally and physically, is affective. Dickinson and Scott make a great team as the intimate and supportive relationship becomes symbiotic. This isn’t the kind of friendship we see depicted often, making the play feel fresh and intriguing as well as moving.
Until 2 September 2017
Photo by Alessia Chinazzo
*Original Broadway Cast Recordings