It bodes well for an evening’s theater when the audience spontaneously bursts into song, not once, but twice before the show even begins. But that’s what happened at Shady Pines Entertainment’s That Golden Girls Show! The crowd came ready to be entertained and they were unquestionably satisfied. The puppet parody — though arguably more of an homage with all the care that was clearly put into it — takes everything beloved about the classic ‘80s comedy and packs it into 90 witty minutes of sarcasm-laden shenanigans.
For the uninitiated: Sexpot Blanche owns a house in Miami that she shares with three housemates — dim-bulb Midwesterner Rose, tall and husky-voiced Dorothy, and Dorothy’s spunky Sicilian mother, Sophia. They’re an oddly matched group but somehow they manage to work out all of their diverse problems with friendly ribbing and a never-ending supply of cheesecake. For the purposes of this production, we also meet Dorothy’s no-good, two-timing, sleazy ex-husband, Stan, who has suddenly come into a small fortune but with a slightly problematic caveat.
That Golden Girls Show! is split into a series of vignettes, much like the sections between commercial breaks — complete with incidental music —that follow all of the characters through their disparate storylines. There’s a lot going on, but creator Jonathan Rockefeller has done a marvelous job of keeping it all cohesive and easy to follow, as well as pitch-perfect. It’s also brilliant how he has managed to keep every character’s “voice” intact; they would be instantly recognizable even if we couldn’t see Joel Gennari’s beautifully designed and constructed puppet stand-ins or the fabulously recreated sets courtesy of David Goldstein.
Actor Michael LaMasa was completely delightful in the role of Dorothy. He utterly captured her posture and vocal cadence, as did Emmanualle Zeesman in the role of the wisecracking Sophia. Cat Greenfield’s Blanche got the best over-the-low-cut-top “costume changes” as well as the most overtly physical gags, and Arlee Chadwick as Rose got the silliest alliterative lines (a complex discussion about vaguely Nordic-named appliances and delicacies was impressively free of tied tongues), but the Dorothy/Sophia dynamic really stood out among the group.
In a Playbill letter to the audience, Rockefeller muses that there’s no way to “truly do justice to the four wonderful performers who played the characters on the show,” but he did a fabulous job of it. The puppets are great in that they can go a little more “out there” than people could, but it’s a credit to the original creators that they made such lovable, timeless, inspiring (in their own way) characters that the team behind this show had such great material to work with. Their hearts were true, they gave us pals to cherish, and I’m confident that if you’re a fan of the original you’ll love what That Golden Girls Show! has to offer.
Photos by Russ Rowland
Top photo: Arlee Chadwick as Rose, Michael LaMasa as Dorothy Emmanuelle, Zeesman as Sophia and Cat Greenfield as Blanche
That Golden Girls Show!
Playing at the DR2 Theatre
103 E. 15th Street
Through December 11, 2016