March 26, 2012

Jessica Simpson Planning An 'I Love Lucy' Remake

Heavily pregnant Jessica Simpson is developing a remake of classic sitcom I Love Lucy with the expectant star in the lead role.

The singer/actress is due to give birth to her first child imminently, but she's already working on her showbiz return and has reteamed with TV producer Ben Silverman, the man behind her new design show Fashion Star, to breathe new life into the popular 1950s comedy.

And Simpson has her sights set on stepping into Lucille Ball's shoes to revive the role she made famous.

During an interview with Elle magazine, Simpson is heard chatting about the prospective project with Silverman, during which he asks her, "What about that I Love Lucy thing you and I were talking about? The sitcom. We really should go to the networks. It could be super funny."

Simpson replies, "Let's develop it. But I think it would be good to play myself, a new mom, and not do anything so different that people won't grasp it."

And Silverman is convinced the show will be a hit with Simpson in the starring role.

Speaking to Elle magazine, he says: "She is just naturally funny. Jess has such a disarming wit for a beautiful girl, making fun of herself in the most charming way."

March 23, 2012

I Love Lucy Live on Stage Will Make Chicago Debut in the Fall

I Love Lucy Live on Stage, the musical stage show adapted from the long-running television program that starred Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, will play Chicago's Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 East Chestnut St.) starting September 12, 2012 through November 11th.

Under a license from CBS Consumer Products, the show premiered in Los Angeles in 2011.

"Imagine stepping back in time and into the Desilu Playhouse soundstage!" press notes state. "It’s 1952 and you are a member of the studio audience awaiting the filming of two hilarious and oh so familiar 'I Love Lucy' episodes. A charming host entertains and enlightens you to the behind-the-scenes filming process, the 1950s hi-fidelity technology, and this brand new thing called ‘television.’ The episodes begin and you witness, firsthand, the side-splitting antics of that crazy redhead in the Ricardos’ New York apartment and thrill to the Cuban sounds of 'The Ricky Ricardo Orchestra' at the famed Tropicana Nightclub. In between scenes? The Crystaltone Singers perform live advertising jingles of the show’s newest sponsors in perfect ’50s style harmony. Can you say ‘Brylcreem’?!"

I Love Lucy Live on Stage is staged and directed by Rick Sparks, and presented by S. Kahn Presents and Millrock Company.

Tickets range from $23–$65. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.

For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.ilovelucylive.com.

March 16, 2012

National Portrait Gallery Featuring Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball was known for her comedic timing and personality that didn't need color to help it pop. But now, because of a new exhibit displaying the technologically advanced work of one deceased photo journalist, visitors can get a better sense of the comedienne's orange-red hair.

The National Portrait Gallery exhibit, called In Vibrant Color, shows the work of Harry Warnecke who worked on color pictures of famous stars who were best known by their black-and-white versions of themselves.

Mr Warnecke worked for The New York Daily News in the 1930s and had the foresight to understand the future importance of investing in color technology.

'Warnecke designed and built a one-shot camera that yielded the red, blue and green separations needed for color reproduction,' the exhibition explains.

Once the paper understood that they would be more successful than their competitors financially if they had color photos and others did not, the newspaper yielded and built the photographer a color photo studio.

The 24 photos are displayed at The National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. now through until September 9th.

March 14, 2012

The Lucille Ball Specials - Lucy Moves to NBC

Lucy Moves to NBC, a Lucille Ball Special which first aired on February 8, 1980 on NBC will be available on DVD starting on March 20th! This 60 minuite NBC Musical Comedy features Lucille Ball playing herself, retired but talked back into show business by NBC president Fred Silverman (satirically played by Gary Imhoff). Congratulations are proffered in guest spots by Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Gene Kelly, Jack Klugman and Gary Coleman, cast as a network programming VIP. Lucy's hired to do is create a new series with the help of her production assistant Gale Gordon. They come up with is a variety show a la 'The Partridge Family,' headlined by Donald O'Connor and Gloria DeHaven. But what evolves is a spoof of TV decision-making as well as long-and-dance numbers highlighted by O'Connor's medley from the movies, an O'Connor-Ball duet set to 'A Real Live Girl' and a rousing banjo solo performed by Scott Plummer."

Following is a review by SitcomesOnline:

Beginning in the early '50s, Lucille Ball began her career on CBS with I Love Lucy, and maintained a starring role (always playing Lucy) in a series on the network for several decades to follow, until the mid '70s when she reduced her role to starring in just a few occasional specials on the network. But just before the '80s, there really wasn't much else that CBS could do with Lucy, and there was another network out there that was seriously struggling and needed all the help that it could get. That network was, of course, NBC, and in 1979, Lucy made her big move to the network that was "proud as a peacock" in a deal that would put her in charge behind the scenes.

Needless to say, in the long run, the arrangement didn't quite work out. We all know Lucy as the star of three (or four depending upon how you count The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour) CBS series spanning over twenty five years, but there really isn't anybody who truly remembers her days at NBC. NBC, in fact, was on the verge of hitting their stride just a few short years later, but that stride didn't include Lucille Ball. But with high expectations of what she could have done for the network--and if it were only a few years earlier, it probably would have turned out much different--NBC brought in the queen of comedy with great fanfare, giving her an entire special to hype the big move to NBC and her getting acquainted with her new co-workers, new digs, and making her transition into a whole new decade where things weren't quite the same as her heyday of television where new territory, political tensions, the sexual revolution, and controversy were all constantly being encountered.

Lucy Moves to NBC is a star-studded feature which stars Ball of course, but also features many of the other "stars of NBC" welcoming her to the network, including Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Jack Klugman, Gene Kelly, and, oh yeah, since this was 1980, Gary Coleman, of course! The special begins with Lucy moving in to her new office and meeting her new boss, which as we would all expect, it would have been NBC president Fred Silverman. But not quite. How do you work the network's most adorable kid into the special? You make Gary Coleman her boss! Gary Coleman, introduces himself to Lucy as the serious, hard-working guy who has been in television "his entire adulthood," proposing that they use her immaturity and newcomer status to television to do the best for NBC. In this introduction, Lucy also gets to meet all of her new fellow NBC stars as well, but unlike Gary Coleman, they're not running the network. As the special progresses, Lucy encounters an old friend, Gale Gordon, and works with him to devise a new pilot for NBC, which we see in the process of development all the way through to the final product (which is somewhat odd, because the special suddenly evolves turns into the actual pilot towards the end), a musical comedy starring Donald O'Connor and Gloria DeHaven, along with Robert Alda, Ruta Lee, Doris Singleton, and "introducing" (he really didn't do a whole lot after this) Scotty Plummer. The entire special has a runtime of 1:13:36.

Normally, we don't cover special features until a bit later in our review, but they are very much integral to this release, so we will cover them now. As for the special itself, it begins with a new introduction (1:25) from Ruta Lee and Jack Klugman, as they remember the special. There is also a retrospective looking back at the special (21:59) with Jack Klugman, Ruta Lee, Hal Kanter (who has recently passed away), Doris Singleton, and others. It is a mostly positive look at both the special and the overall legacy of Lucy herself.

Lucy's move to NBC didn't actually produce any hits for the network, but it did introduce one pilot in 1981 (in addition to the one presented in the special) that was actually directed by Lucy, Bungle Abbey (27:51), a somewhat quirky (but fun) series about monks in a monastery who were not your ordinary monks, at all. The pilot stars Charlie Callas, Guy Marks, Gino Conforti, Graham Jarvis, Peter Palmer, and (of course) Gale Gordon. There is also an introduction to this pilot from Gino Conforti (1:27) where he admits the very obvious: this series would have never worked, and in fact, it was a challenge to even write enough material just for the one pilot episode, but it was still a very fun pilot to do, and I think many people will enjoy watching it. It feels a bit like a sketch from the end of an episode of Saturday Night Live that was made a bit too long, but it was a nice effort at the very least.

"Let's Talk to Lucy: Bob Hope" (9:25) is a very brief 1964 radio interview featuring Lucy interviewing Bob Hope, which is particularly appropriate for this release, as Bob Hope was one of the early big stars of NBC. I say "very brief" because Bob Hope only takes part in the first few minutes of the interview. Much of the interview features Lucy talking to her husband Gary Morton about National Children's Book Week and keeping a family strong, where she talks about keeping her husband and kids together through education and reading (notice that the "other guy" that she had been married to before is not mentioned... at all... but that is OK).

Finally, "Lucy on the Bob Hope Special" (10:37) is a segment from a Christmas special featuring Bob Hope and Lucy. There is no indication of exactly what year this aired, but it appears to be from the late '70s.

The DVD comes packaged in a standard DVD, with packaging that matches all of the other releases of The Lucille Ball Specials from MPI. The cover artwork features Lucy and Bob Hope, while the back features photos of Lucy with Jack Klugman and Johnny Carson. All of the special features are also listed on the back, along with a description of the special. The single disc has artwork that is identical to the cover artwork.

There isn't a whole lot to the menus on the DVD. The main menu has the theme music from the special playing, and gives you the option of playing the special, playing it with the special introduction, special features, and an option to turn on subtitles. Chapters are placed throughout the special.

The video and audio quality of the release is, to say the least, not all that great. Of course, it is important to consider that this was from an era where everybody seemed to cut corners everywhere to save money, but just before producers began to see the value in creating a product of higher quality... somewhat of a "lull," I guess. The transfer almost looks like a decent quality VHS transfer, but it is by no means a disaster. The audio is a bit low, but I don't think most fans will be bothered. Like just about every other MPI release out there, the release DOES contain English subtitles. It is great to see that MPI, one of the "little guys" out there, almost never neglects this important part of their releases.

I'll admit, this was probably one of the weakest points of Lucy's career (which sadly only got worse when she moved on to ABC several years later with Life with Lucy, a series which was not one of her proudest moments), but still, it is, in fact, Lucy, and an important part of her legacy. Out of all of the specials that MPI has released, this was definitely the least interesting one, but I am still glad that it made it to DVD, and I know that every Lucy fan will definitely want to see this. It helps even more that MPI didn't just slap this together just to get it out, but actually made a great release that is up to the high standards that they have set for pretty much all of their releases of anything Lucy related. If you have yet to pick up any of these specials, though, this probably is not the one that you'll want to start with. Some of the earlier ones brought back some of the Lucy style antics that fans were used to, and are likely to find more interesting. But don't get me wrong on this release. It is a great release, and fans of Lucy are definitely not going to want to pass this one up.

March 12, 2012

Billy Gardell to headline 2012 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival

Comedian Billy Gardell, the star of the hit show "Mike & Molly" will headline the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival August 1-5 in Jamestown, NY.

The Pittsburgh native is known to more than 12 million TV viewers each week, appeared in his own hour-long Comedy Central Special in 2011, and will be performing to a house of 1,260 seats in Jamestown Saturday, August 4. Tickets go on sale April 17 at www.LucyComedyFest.com.

Returning after contributing to this success, Paula Poundstone, one of Comedy Central’s 100 greatest comedians of all-time and panelist on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, will headline the Thursday, August 2 evening.

Attending this show and others, Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, will be in town to witness the Center’s new Legacy of Laughter direction, one pillar of which is comedic arts education.

That programming debuts this year with a set of comedy courses to take place the week of the festival, culminating with students earning stage time at Lucy Fest and the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, named by USA Today as one of the top 10 comedy clubs in the nation. Courses are presented in partnership with Jamestown Community College’s Center for Continuing Education, and registration for youth and adults begins April 17.

Classes include intensive training in the areas of improv, sketch and stand-up, and will be taught by Bill Chott, T. Faye Griffin, and Andy Engel, respectively. Engel is the founder of Manhattan Comedy School and the Director of New Talent at the Gotham. Griffin is a former writer and segment producer for both the show In Living Color and the BET Network, as well as a personal joke writer for Steve Harvey. Chott toured alongside Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in The Second City Comedy Troupe before re-uniting with former troupe-mates Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell to work on The Dana Carvey Show and Saturday Night Live. Lucy fans will recognize him for his award-winning portrayal of Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy Live on Stage.

Friday, August 3 features a showcase of some of the hottest rising comics in the country, co-produced by San Francisco-based Rooftop Comedy, the world’s largest producer of interactive comedy programming. Lucy Fest has featured performances by then-rising stars Ray Romano, Lewis Black and Ellen Degeneres, and aims to catch comics on a similar rise to the top with this showcase.

Saturday matinees will include the return of a live on-stage radio show, broadcast last year on SiriusXM and produced by Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator Jess Oppenheimer. Also returning is the critically-acclaimed kids comedy troupe, Story Pirates. This non-profit creative writing organization will visit to do in-classroom story-writing workshops in the spring. The stories from these Jamestown public school students will become the basis for the show Saturday, August 4.

Other festival events include Lucy Town Tours, shows featuring the best Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel impersonators in the world, a parade, memorabilia auction, “Party on the Plaza,” and the newly-formatted, largest, and most comprehensive “I Love Lucy” trivia contest ever believed to have been held. This preliminary schedule will be updated as new events are confirmed at www.LucyComedyFest.com.

March 05, 2012

Lucie Arnaz Honors Dad with Latin Roots

By Robert Sokol as Special To The S.F. Examiner

“I don’t play that side of me very often,” says the daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, “though I’ve always said that if I didn’t have that side of my family I don’t think I’d have the rhythm or any kind of musical ability at all.”

She’s been playing that side a lot more the last couple of years, paying tribute to the musical influences of her father with a spectacularly reviewed stage show, the CD “Latin Roots,” and a new nightclub act that just played to raves at Manhattan’s Feinstein’s at the Regency.

“When I put together my ‘hybrid’ version of that ‘Babalu’ show – utilizing some of Dad’s charts, a lot of the Latin flavored material that I have been including in my shows for years and a lot of tunes from the CD – I was happily surprised to know how much the audiences accepted my interpretations of some of Dad’s trademark songs, like ‘Cuban Pete,’ ‘The Straw Hat Song’ and ‘Babalu.’”

The impetus for both her nightclub career and, now, the focus on her Latin side has its roots in the Bay Area.

“When my dad passed away I found this wonderful little set of cassette tapes that had been compiled by a man in San Francisco named Edward Maffei, who was a discographer and fan of my father’s work. It included all sorts of recordings and broadcasts of Dad’s that he had gathered.”

Arnaz would drive around playing the cassettes and absorbing the sound. “This was, like, 1987, and it was the whole reason I decided to put together my first club act.”

Spending as much time as she has lately, steeped in her father’s musical legacy, her respect for his talent “really couldn’t have gotten any higher than it was before. But, I am just enjoying that ‘See, I knew I wasn’t crazy!’ sensation, now that everyone else is responding to this kind of material the way I did when I first heard it.”

So, what might her father think of all this? “One can only guess, right? I think he would be very choked up and stand a little taller in his shoes as he watched. I think he would be very, very grateful that all his work during those years had not gone unappreciated in the shade of the very large ‘I Love Lucy’-Ricky Ricardo branches.”

IF YOU GO
Lucie Arnaz
Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 7 p.m. March 11
Tickets: $45
Contact: (800) 380-3095, www.therrazzroom.com

March 02, 2012

Lucie Arnaz plays in Tucson Show


Lucie Arnaz has graced some of the most prestigious stages in the world with her lush singing. From Broadway to London's West End. And on Friday, March 2nd she makes her Berger Performing Arts Center debut in Tucson, Arizona.
This singer and actress is coming here with Invisible Theatre for her Latin Roots show. She will perform two shows — 8 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday — at the Berger, 1200 W. Speedway Tickets are $42 through the theater 882-9271 or online.
Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, isn't exactly taking a page from her father's Latin songbook, but organizers of the show say the song list would make her father proud.

The incomparable Lucie Arnaz sparkles in LATIN ROOTS!  “These are the rhythms of my soul”, says Lucie and indeed they are!  This is a not-to-be-missed eclectic celebration of her musical heritage blending south of the border sounds, fiery Latin classics and enduring American standards with sophistication and sassy spice!  As Michael Feinstein says, “She captures the energy and spirit of her father’s (Desi Arnaz) music and puts her own inimitable stamp on it.  She’s an original and a treasure!”

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