Bill Mendieta plays Ricky Ricardo in the live rendition of I Love Lucy.
Adapted from one of the most beloved shows on television, I Love Lucy Live on Stage kicks off its national tour on July 17 at Atlantic City’s Harrah’s Resort. Directed by Rick Sparks, audience members will be whimsically whisked back to 1952 to watch as two famous Lucy episodes, “The Benefit” and “Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined,” are filmed for a new phenomenon called television. Philadelphia Style sat down with Bill Mendieta, who plays Ricky Ricardo, to learn more about the show and what it was like to play such an iconic character.
How does it feel to play a character as iconic as Ricky Ricardo?
BILL MENDIETA: It is the most fun job in the world! I get to play with well-written material, conduct with the band, and sing some fun songs alongside the talented actors and crew in this show. We have such a fun time. I also feel very honored to be entrusted with the responsibility of bringing this role to life again.
What can audiences expect?
BM: To time travel back to 1952 and witness a filming of two episodes of the I Love Lucy show. The series was the first TV show to be filmed in front of a live audience with a multi-camera style that is still used in many sitcoms today. So the audience gets to be immediately immersed in the era as they walk into the theater. There’s everything from a host who will warm up the audience to the Crystaltone Singers who perform live commercials from that time period.
What excites you most about being part of a national tour?
BM: I love the opportunity to meet new people and bring this show around the country. I love traveling and exploring the world as each city has its own character and charm. I enjoy walking around, exploring cool new places to eat, and getting to know the charm of [each] neighborhood.
You’ve probably met some pretty incredible I Love Lucy fans along your journey so far. Could you tell us about that?
BM: Lucy fans are fun! They love to laugh, know the show inside out, notice the tweaks we’ve made to bring these episodes to a theater form, and they are so appreciative of the show. We feel this show is an homage to I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz. Many kids come up to say this was their favorite show, and some even know the lines. Older fans express such heartfelt gratitude for bringing back [the] smiles, laughs, and nostalgia for those times when they used to gather to watch the show when it first aired. Many fans dress up in costume, have [the character’s] '50s-style clothes, or come as Lucy and Ricky.
How do you think performing in Atlantic City will compare to other places around the country?
BM: There is always something special about the first set of performances of a show. I’m excited to learn more about the city and the iconic boardwalk by the beach. It’s going to be a great place to kick off the tour!
I Love Lucy Live on Stage plays July 17-August 4 at Harrah’s Resort, 777 Harrah’s Blvd., Atlantic City, 609-441-5000. Tickets ($36-$67) are available on ticketmaster.com. Can’t make it this time? The show will be back at The Kimmel Center’s Merriam Theater in Philadelphia December 26-29.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ED KRIEGER