Next I’ll directing a hilarious installment of Philip Rapp’s comedy The Bickersons, starring Richard Herd (Seinfeld, Golden Girls) and Lisa Valenzuela (star of the amazing Troubadour Theatre Company).
Join me on Saturday, November 16th, when I’ll be directing two radio plays at the SPERDVAC Old-Time Radio Convention at Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn in North Hollywood (4222 Vineland Ave).
I’ll be directing a staged reading of my original short play, I Love Lucy: The Untold Story, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, from 3pm to 4pm at University Synagogue in Brentwood (11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049)
Based on my dad’s memoir, this humorous look behind the scenes at the creation of TV’s most beloved sitcom has had successful productions on both coasts, as well as a nationwide broadcast on SiriusXM™ Radio. This performance will have new scenes, including the story of how Vivian Vance became “Ethel Mertz.”
The show is performed in the style of old-time radio, with the actors and singers standing at microphones, scripts in hand, plus sound effects and recorded music.
My phenomenal cast includes such talented performers as Nancy Travis (Last Man Standing) as Lucille Ball, Dick Van Patten (Eight Is Enough) as CBS head William S. Paley, Tony Dow (Leave It to Beaver) as I Love Lucy director Marc Daniels, Phil Proctor (founder of the legendary Firesign Theater comedy group) as Desi Arnaz, William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show, Get Smart) as CBS Programming chief Hubbell Robinson, Second City alum Lance Kinsey (“Lt. Proctor” in the Police Academy films) as I Love Lucy Pilot director Ralph Levy, Alan Oppenheimer (The Six Million Dollar Man, Murphy Brown) as Jess Oppenheimer, and musical guest Dora Pearson (former lead female vocalist for Sha Na Na).
After the show, refreshments will be served, and you’ll have the opportunity to mingle with members of the cast.Proceeds benefit University Synagogue. Tickets are $18 in advance or $25 at the door. Free parking is available. (Cast lineup is subject to change.)
We’re going to have a lot of fun on October 6th, and I really hope to see you there.
– Gregg Oppenheimer
P.S. Be sure to check out the full-cast recording of I Love Lucy: The Untold Story—the 60th Anniversary Benefit Performance—now available for download with a donation of $1.95 or more to the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Click here to learn more. And after you follow the link, please remember to share it on Twitter and Facebook!
Your exclusive backstage pass to the creation of I Love Lucy:
- I Love Lucy: Behind the Scenes, by Jess Oppenheimer with Gregg Oppenheimer, narrated by Larry Dobkin –Winner, Listen Up Awards Best Pop Culture Audiobook of the Year (based on Oppenheimer’s memoir, “Laughs, Luck…and Lucy.”
- Full-cast performance of Gregg Oppenheimer’s play I Love Lucy: The Untold Story
- 15-minute Bonus Track: never-before-released 1961 interview with Jess Oppenheimer about the creation of I Love Lucy
All royalties from this edition benefit the Motion Picture & Television Fund – caring for those in the entertainment community who are in need.
“A true genius. I owe so much to his creativity and friendship.”
Jess Oppenheimer, “the brains” behind I Love Lucy, gives us an insider’s view of this groundbreaking show, generously interspersed with recordings of classic Lucy radio and TV comedy performances – including her famous “Vitameatavegamin” routine.
Oppenheimer weaves a wonderfully entertaining tale of the creation of this landmark series and its evolution from Lucy’s hit radio sitcom, My Favorite Husband. Lucy aficionados will delight in his personal accounts of stars like Desi Arnaz, William Frawley, Vivian Vance, and of course, Lucille Ball.
Narrated by three-time I Love Lucy veteran Larry Dobkin (pictured above with Lucy in “Paris at Last!”), and featuring comedy performances by Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Frawley, Vivian Vance, Gale Gordon, Bea Benaderet(My Favorite Husband, I Love Lucy, Petticoat Junction, The Flintstones), Frank Nelson (I Love Lucy, The Jack Benny Program), and many more! Plus a never-before-released sound snippet from Lucy’s performance at the farewell party she threw for Jess Oppenheimer at her home in Beverly Hills in 1956.
Oppenheimer’s reminiscences come to life in his son Gregg’s new radio play, I Love Lucy: The Untold Story.Recorded on I Love Lucy’s 60th anniversary (10/15/11), starring such talents as Dick Van Patten (Eight Is Enough), Phil Proctor (Firesign Theatre), Amy Pietz (Caroline in the City), Richard Herd (Seinfeld), and I Love Lucy veterans Janet Waldo (“Peggy Dawson”, the bobby-soxer with a crush on Ricky Ricardo) and Shirley Mitchell (Lucy Ricardo’s girlfriend “Marion Strong”), and I Love Lucy film editor Dann Cahn in a cameo as I Love Lucy pilot director Ralph Levy). Click here to hear Dann’s cameo, in a scene which takes place in Studio A of CBS Columbia Square in Hollywood on March 2, 1951. Also appearing in the scene are Phil Proctor as both Walter Winchell and Desi Arnaz, and Tom Hatten as CBS exec Hal Hudson.
©2012 Gregg Oppenheimer (P)2012 Gregg Oppenheimer
What the Critics Say
A charming and interesting memoir of the creation of the famous I Love Lucy TV show…. Oppenheimer, the program’s creator and producer, uses a number of radio and TV sound bites to supplement his story. Dobkin naturally and effortlessly reads this story of how Oppenheimer began writing for Lucy while she was still performing on radio and then switched to the new medium of television. His voice is always clear, never hurried, and quite pleasing. (Audiofile)
Fans of “I Love Lucy” will enjoy this fascinating look at the making of the series by its producer and head writer…. Plenty of amusing anecdotes about the actors and their antics at work. What is most impressive about this audio is Larry Dobkin’s narration. Listening to his gruff but affectionate tone, chuckling reminiscently at certain memories, one would never know it wasn’t Oppenheimer himself. (Billboard)
Click here to hear a sample.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll soon be directing THREE different classic radio comedy productions, live onstage, at Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn in North Hollywood. These shows, featuring live sound effects (just like during radio’s “Golden Age”) are part of the Old-Time Radio Convention Friday evening, May 1st, and Saturday evening, May 2nd.
FRIDAY, MAY 1: “BURNS AND ALLEN with JACK BENNY” plus “THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE”
On Friday, I’ll be directing two great comedies:
1. Maxwell House Coffee Time starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Special Guest Star Jack Benny. We’ll be re-creating the hilarious episode “How Jack Benny Became a Cheapskate,” featuring the incomparable Eddie Carroll as Jack Benny. Eddie’s uncanny portrayal of Jack Benny has won him rave reviews for his award-winning one man show, Jack Benny: Laughter in Bloom, currently on tour around the country. Eddie is also the voice of Disney’s “Jiminy Cricket.”
Starring as George Burns will be the prolific and talented voice actor Gregg Berger (the voice of countless cartoon characters, including “Odie” on Garfield and Friends, and named by Animation Magazine as “one of the “top 15 voice actors of the new generation”).
And joining them as Gracie Allen will be the delightful Janet Waldo (the voice of “Judy Jetson” and “Josie” of Josie and the Pussycats, star of radio’s Meet Corliss Archer, and the lovesick teenager, “Peggy,” who had a crush on Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy).
2. The Great Gildersleeve, starring, as Gildersleeve, the “man of a thousand commercials,” Chuck McCann (the “hi guy” fellow in the medicine cabinet for Right Guard, and the voice of the “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” bird).
Co-starring will be the amazing Shirley Mitchell, reprising her role in the original radio broadcast as Gildy’s lady love, “Leila Ransom.” I Love Lucy fans remember Shirley as “Marion Strong,” Lucy Ricardo’s girlfriend with the distinctive laugh. (LUCY: “Quit cackling, Marion. I’ve been waiting ten years for you to lay that egg.”)
The production will also feature four additional original Great Gildersleeve cast members: Janet Waldo, Dick Beals (the voice of both “Speedy Alka-Seltzer” and “Gumby”), Gloria McMillan (“Harriet Conklin” on Our Miss Brooks on both radio and TV), and veteran radio and TV actor Stuffy Singer (The Jack Benny Program, Our Miss Brooks, The Bill Cosby Show).
Rounding out our stellar cast will be Eddie Carroll and the legendary June Foray (voice of “Witch Hazel,” “Granny” (owner of “Tweety” and “Sylvester”), “Jokey Smurf”, and Bullwinkle’s pal, “Rocky,” as well as his sultry nemesis, “Natasha Fatale.”).
SATURDAY, MAY 2: “BABY SNOOKS” plus “DRAGNET” and “LUX RADIO THEATRE: CASABLANCA”
On Saturday evening, which will be emceed by film critic Leonard Maltin, I’ll get to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: direct a re-creation of The Baby Snooks Show, which originally starred Fanny Brice, the legendary actress, singer, and comedienne portrayed by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. Fanny played “Snooks Higgins” — a wise-beyond-her-years little girl who constantly drives her daddy crazy. My dad’s experience writing for Snooks led him to create the character of “Lucy Ricardo” — a little girl, in a grown woman’s body, who constantly drives her husband crazy — for I Love Lucy. Starring as Snooks will be Marilyn King (premiere soloist of the King Sisters, and the baby sister of a show business dynasty: The King Family).
Co-starring as “Daddy Higgins” will be the talented Harold Gould (“Mr. Morgenstern” on Rhoda, “Miles Webber” on Golden Girls, and the dapper “Kid Twist” in the movie The Sting).
Also on Saturday, we’ll celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Jack Webb’s Dragnet with a re-creation of an episode of the famous series, directed by and starring Herb Ellis, who played Sergeant Joe Friday’s partner, “Sergeant Frank Smith,” on radio.
Our 60th Anniversary Dragnet re-creation will co-star radio actress Barbara Fuller (best known as “Claudia” on Carleton E. Morse’s long-running radio series, One Man’s Family ) and Gladys Holland (To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much), whose first radio role was on Dragnet, as well as the unforgettable Kenneth Mars (the crazy Nazi playwright in Mel Brooks’ The Producers and the Transylvanian police inspector in Young Frankenstein).
Last but not least, we will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Lux Radio Theatre with an abridged radio version of Casablanca, directed by radio personality Frank Bresee. The Lux cast will include Doris Singleton, better known to I Love Lucy fans as Lucy’s nearsighted nemesis “Carolyn Appleby.” Doris played The Lux Radio Theatre’s “Hollywood Correspondent, Libby Collins” on the original radio program.
SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 3, will feature “FROM RADIO TO CARTOONS” – an entertaining after-breakfast panel discussion featuring Janet Waldo, Dick Beals, and the legendary June Foray (best known as the voice of Bullwinkle’s pal, “Rocky,” as well as his sultry nemesis, “Natasha Fatale,” and “Granny,” owner of “Tweety” and “Sylvester”).
Tickets for each evening are $55 per person ($50 for SPERDVAC members), which includes a full sit-down dinner banquet before the shows (6:30 p.m. on Friday, 6:00 p.m. on Saturday). Tickets for Sunday Brunch are $35 per person, which includes a full breakfast (at 9:30 a.m.) before the program (which begins at 10:30 a.m.)
MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY, because table assignments will be made on a first-come, first-served basis.
A mail-in order form is available here (PDF Format)
And take a look at last year’s beautiful Convention Program (complete with celebrity profiles and cartoons).
I hope to see you there.
– Gregg Oppenheimer
P.S. The Old-Time Radio Convention runs from 12:30 pm on Friday, May 1 until late Sunday Morning, May 3, and features panel discussions and additional re-creations during the daytime. Click here for a full schedule.