December 2, 2013
Christmas is coming a little early for Dorchester native Carolynne Warren, who has built a successful career as an actress and entrepreneur in Los Angeles. The actress will find herself onstage at Boston’s Colonial Theatre from Dec. 3 to Dec. 22 as a member of the national tour of “I Love Lucy: Live On Stage.”
When she was growing up on Geneva Avenue in Fields Corner, she says she never dared dream of such a gig. Her Boston story includes local iconic highlights like the school dances at Florian Hall, Mass at St. Peter’s, dance classes at Fields Corner, high school at Boston Latin, and regular appearances “in my Nana’s kitchen.” Along the way, she picked up a diploma from Harvard University along the way.
Warren has been a member of Second City in Chicago, has appeared in several one-woman shows, and is the founder of Hey Dollface! Productions. She was back in Boston previously to appear in “Menopause: The Musical” at the Stuart Street Playhouse and “The Light In The Piazza” at SpeakEasy Stage.
“I Love Lucy,” of course, ranks as one of the most popular TV shows of all time. In turn, Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel stand as one of the sitcom world’s most fabulous foursomes.
“I Love Lucy: Live On Stage” whisks theatergoers back to 1952 to become members of the studio audience at Desilu Playhouse where everyone is anxiously awaiting the filming of two episodes of “I Love Lucy.” Meanwhile, a charming host enlightens the crowd to the behind-the-scenes process of the relatively new thing called “television.” Carolynne plays the role of Eugenia in addition to understudying the role of Ethel Mertz.
During the show’s stop in Toronto, we spoke by phone about “Lucy,” the World Series, and her old neighborhood. Here’s an edited look at our conversation.
BIR: Thinking back to your childhood in Dorchester, what do you miss?
CW: I think the thing I miss the most, especially living in LA, is a sense of neighborhood . . . You ask someone what parish they’re from and someone knows right away what you’re talking about. What it looked like and felt like. Being able to walk down the street and wave and talk to people and have them know you and your family. And all the things that happen throughout a year. Events through church or through your school. I miss that a lot . . . There’s something so grounded in being able to look people in the eye and talk about anything just because you shared this common neighborhood experience.
BIR: When you were attending high school, you were just down the street from Fenway Park. So were you following the World Series while you were on tour.
CW: A couple of my new friends (in the show) were just amazed at how happy it was making me when they won . . . How engaged I was. I said you don’t understand, it’s a lifetime. It’s your grandparents’ lifetime of watching them lose. Of loving them and having your heart broken . . . (During one of the games) someone was feeding me the scores during the show. (Later) I ran to this sports bar and met someone from Hyde Park, someone from Danvers, and we were all screaming our heads off.
BIR: Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite redhead. Is this new stage show aimed at “Lucy” purists, or is it for just about anybody?
CW: Anybody, and this is why. I’m not going to reveal any secrets (laughing), but you really feel as if you have traveled back in time . . . Like you’re in Hollywood and it’s 1952 and you’ve walked onto the soundstage and you are about to see the taping . . . You’re getting a feel of what it’s like. Especially for people who’ve never been to Hollywood. It’s an experience they probably wouldn’t have had in their lifetime . . . Part of my job is to be out in the audience for a while. And people are so excited to tell me, and tell each other – strangers – about how much they love Lucy and what’s their favorite episode.
BIR: Do die-hard fans show up dressed as Lucy?
CW: I loved that you asked me that. Yes! Especially here in Toronto. The other night, we had a night of Lucy drag queens, which was hilarious. Some of them, really big men, full-on dressed as Lucy, with big black mustaches. But then my favorite was a group of 12 women, dressed like Lucy – I mean head to toe, the whole shebang – they all came in carrying cocktails and smoking fake cigarettes . . . As the Lucys were going to their seats, they got applause! It was so funny.
BIR: In addition to playing a character, you also understudy the role of Ethel Mertz. It must be special when you actually get to go on as Lucy’s legendary best pal.
CW: All day today I’m rehearsing as Ethel. (In the show) I have a moment where all of that good mojo from their friendship – I think it’s both Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance and Lucy and Ethel – when it transcends time and the women and their characters. That’s what women all over the world connect to. That best friend. The one who’ll be there to help you get out of trouble. The one who’ll help you get into trouble. Being able to be in Ethel’s shoes and have that connection with someone who is Lucy, right next to you, is such a powerful experience . . . it appeals to the little girl in me.
BIR: It has to be pretty special for you to be coming home with such a major production.
CW: When I first got the job (on this tour) and they said it was coming to Boston … I’ve just been over the moon since that day . . . I can’t even tell you how happy I am to be coming home . . . It’s so close now . . . I keep telling my cast mates what a special treat they’re in for.
R. J. Donovan is editor and publisher of onstageboston.com.
“I Love Lucy: Live On Stage,” Dec. 3 – Dec. 22, Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston Street, Boston. Tickets: 1-866-348-9738 or BroadwayInBoston.com.