Lucille Ball impersonator to perform one-woman show in Conyers

Melody Knighton impersonates the queen of a comedy in her one-woman show "Tribute to Lucille Ball" at 8 p.m. on Jan. 26 in Conyers.

Melody Knighton impersonates the queen of a comedy in her one-woman show "Tribute to Lucille Ball" at 8 p.m. on Jan. 26 in Conyers.

Melody Knighton recalls regularly watching episodes of the sitcom classic "I Love Lucy" in her younger years, but she doesn't remember being particularly enamored with the show's star, Lucille Ball.

"I certainly watched Lucy in re-runs," said Knighton, who lives in Kennesaw. "I watched the show every day and enjoyed it, but I can't say I was an avid fan."

But now, Knighton can say she's an avid Lucy fan as she's parlayed a resemblance to the comedic titan into a nice living, appearing all over the country as Lucy at trade shows, conventions, conferences, nightclubs, theatres and almost any other venue where fans of the famed redhead might gather.

"Impersonators, lookalikes and tribute artists make up a small cottage industry," said the award-winning Knighton, who first appeared as Lucy in the 1989 Billy Joel video "We Didn't Start the Fire." "I started out mainly as a lookalike and I saw how popular she was at conventions and parties, so I decided to take it to another level."

Knighton is bringing her "Tribute to Lucille Ball" to the east metro area, appearing at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 at Center Street Arts in Olde Town Conyers. The one-woman show features some of the best-loved routines from "I Love Lucy" broadcasts, audience participation, costume changes, a trivia competition and a little music (before she became a comic force in television, Ball was a talented singer and dancer).

"Basically, the show features the character Lucy played on the show, Lucy Ricardo, who was married to a Cuban bandleader and always wanted to be a celebrity herself," said Knighton, who also frequently appears as Dolly Parton. "And I'll sing a funny song and we'll do trivia and we'll also have an audition for Ricky (Ricardo, who was played by Desi Arnaz).

The tribute strikes a chord with those who enjoyed "I Love Lucy" during its heyday (1951-1960), as well as fans that learned to love Lucy from untold afternoon re-runs. And in many cases, Knighton finds herself the object of great affection once the curtain closes.

"As you can imagine, the show is extremely popular with seniors, but we've got teenage fans, too. Everyone likes it because it's funny and silly," said Knighton, who estimates she plays Lucy a couple of times a month. "And after the show, there's almost always people there who cry and want to give me a hug. They'll tell me stories about their experiences watching Lucy.

"And there are a surprising number of people who tell me they basically learned to speak English watching Lucy. That was the great thing about her -- Lucy's comedy was physical, so you could actually turn the sound down and still know what was happening. And now, years later, people are seeing this doppelganger and they're so touched. I get hugged and kissed a lot."

While it takes approximately two hours to physically "become" Lucy, Knighton -- who also has a tribute show with Luis Hernandez, who portrays Ricky Ricardo -- has devoted many years to learning as much as she can about the late Lucille Ball, who today is recognized as one of the most important figures in the development of television and will forever be considered a queen of comedy.

"When I started, I worked with an impressionist, who gave me tips on how to find Lucy's voice, and when I became a performer, I realized I needed an act," she said. "I did some research and put together a small act that I've been building on ever since.. When I started to do the research, I became very appreciative of Lucy's brilliance, her career and her tenacity."

For more information on Melody Knighton as Lucy, visit www.lookalikelucy.com.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga.

What: "Tribute to Lucille Ball," presented by the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts and the Mixed Nuts Comedy Network

When: 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26

Where: Center Street Arts black box theater, 910 Center St.

Cost: Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and tables for eight are available for $120. For ticket information, call 770-922-3143 or visit www.conyersarts.org.