The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2017
D’Arcy Drollinger & Matthew Martin, Directors
|Matthew Martin, Heklina, D'Arcy Drollinger & (in front) Holotta Tymes|
There are many ‘only-in-SF’ traditions all year round, including during the holidays. The Embarcadero buildings light up to be seen from Marin County to Oakland. SantaCon (which originated in SF in 1994) sees thousands of Santas in various arrays of costume (and not) trolling the bars. Christmas trees tap dance at Beach Blanket Babylon, and sold-out crowds return yet again to A.C.T. for The Christmas Carol (as they have for decades). And as they have since 2011, packed crowds of 500+ flock to Victoria Theatre to see four men in drag bring the house down howling with laughter in their love-filled tribute to Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia -- this year simply entitled The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2017.
As someone who was lucky enough in 2006 to stumble into one of the first, mostly verbatim episodes of the local Golden Girls in a living room parlor on Hayes Street (with a standing-room only crowd of maybe thirty or so), I have been a huge, year-in, year-out fan of these live reruns of one of my (and most everyone else’s) all-time favorite TV sitcoms. It did not take long for then-producers, Heklina and Cookie Dough, to expand their offerings beyond Pride into the December holidays. Most of the month of December is now where the annual production has found what seems a permanent time-slot home with literally thousands of loyal fans coming annually -- many who come in their own versions of ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters, skirts, and dresses (both men and women, of course).
Because there were not really that many Christmas episodes made with the girls in their Miami home, Directors D’Arcy Drollinger and Matthew Martin have chosen two wonderfully delightful, non-holiday episodes and plopped them into the four roommates’ house that has been decorated with fully lighted tree, ample garland, and holiday trinkets galore – all part of the elaborate set design of Hector Zavala that will look familiar and please any long-time, die-hard fan of The Golden Girls. The first half of this year’s offerings has a parallel storyline, first with Dorothy going on a blind-date with a man suffering from depression but evidently not having any trouble when it comes to the bedroom. While she is coming home in the early mornings exhausted but with a big smile on her face (but always hungry because there is never any time to eat), Rose and Blanche are spending time in the “Be a Pal” program to be ‘big sisters’ of sorts to two wayward teen girls – and where they land as a result of a shopping trip with the two is not where they had planned! Guest stars Michael Phillis and Manuel Caneri are Jackie and Marla, two girls doting on Blanche’s lessons on how to be sexy and planning on the side how to repay big-time the generosity of their new big-sisters.
The second half of the evening has Rose leading a neighborhood campaign to save a 200-year old pine tree, but the cranky octogenarian on whose property it is wants only to allow the city to remove it and pave over the yard for an expanded lane in the street. Michael Phillis is hilarious as the wicked old witch, Mrs. Claxton, who has a surprise to end all surprises when she finally gets sweet Rose fully riled in righteous anger.
Each of the four principal actors reprises his annual role with a seasoned exactness of his original Golden Girl that is uncanny in every respect (as well as of course absolutely hilarious). Each captures the voice; the expressions; the walk; and the overall snappy, snippy, and/or sexy attitudes his girl requires. Each drag star only has to appear on the stage; and she is met with loud, thunderous waves of laughs and applause. Often those guffaws come not only because of the impersonations but also in because of the fifty or so costumes created by Glenn Krumbholz. Those dresses, pant suits, nightgowns/robes, etc. are themselves worth the price of the ticket; and the big shame is that Mr. Krumbholz is not present to get a much-deserved standing ovation at evening’s end.
D’Arcy Drollinger is the ringy-dingy-in-the-head Rose Nylund; and his Rose knows how to look as if out-to-lunch when others’ comments go over her head, how to tell a St. Olaf tall-tale with full-face belief, and how to win everyone’s love with her big, Iowa-born heart. As Blanche Devereaux, Matthew Martin can turn on the Blanche-iconic sexy, seductive looks and poses that send the house into spasms; and she knows how to hold the pregnant pause just long enough to keep attention and spotlight on her Blanche as long as possible.
Heklina is larger than life as Dorothy Zbornak (both due to her own body size and all the puffed hair that Becky Motorlodge has created for her wig). She moves in like a Viking Moving Van but always with style and grace; and she has that Dorothy nasal voice and those rolled eyes and looks of ‘who me?’ that Bea Arthur made so famous. Holotto Tymes stepped into the role of Dorothy’s pipsqueak-of-a-mom after the original, Cookie Dough, died tragically in 2015. Her Sophia Petrillo has a huge presence in her petite body as she growls and grumps at everyone and has a cynical retort that often is full of truth-telling in unsolicited response to almost anything the others might say (especially Rose).
Together, these Golden Girls are both great replicas of the original while adding many of their own drag-queen touches and flairs that make them totally unique.
While the well-known theme song (always sung in full-voice by many of the audience members) still introduces each segment and its pieces, the one thing I miss from the original, local episodes by this troupe is the recordings of vintage TV ads they used to play during the commercial breaks. Replacing them in this holiday version is Tom Shaw leading the crowd from his piano and in this Santa Hat in number after number of holiday standards. Because there are so many commercial breaks in those original episodes, the sing-a-long begins to lose some thrill and muster as the evening progresses; but kudos for Mr. Shaw for never shedding his big smile and huge dose of Christmas cheer.
And while I dare not give away the ending of Episode 1, Sophia steals the show in a way that is not to be missed and will be an image long remembered from this year’s version of The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2017. Can’t wait until next December and Episodes 2018!
Rating: 3.5 E
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2017 continues Thursday – Saturdays, 8 p.m. through December 23, 2017 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1550413-golden-girls-christmas-san-francisco/ or http://www.victoriatheatre.org/index.php/box-office.
Photo: Mr Pam