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BWW Review: The Golden Gays NYC Shine In Online Show

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BWW Review: The Golden Gays NYC Shine In Online Show

In their advertising, The Golden Gays NYC are declared "the premier Golden Girls drag show in the country." It would be hard to say whether that is actually accurate advertising without, first, seeing all of the other Golden Girls drag shows available across these United States, but why bother? Save yourself the trouble and just see The Golden Gays NYC. The Blanche, Dorothy and Rose that you will find there aren't just good recreations of the characters people far and wide have come to love, they are a continuation of a treasured show that went off the air nearly three decades ago. From what this writer saw at their online show on Monday night, The Golden Gays NYC can leave their advertising as it stands.

The age of television has reached a funny stage -- the reboot. TV fans have seen television remakes time and time again. How many versions of The Addams Family and The Munsters have we all watched? We had The Brady Bunch, The Brady Bunch Variety Show and even an animated Brady Bunch program. There have been remakes of Hawaii 5.0, Ironside,Magnum PI. and this season saw the return of Perry Mason to the airwaves. Lately, though, producers are dusting off casts of famed television programs and putting them back on the air to continue their sagas with brand new storylines. Will and Grace, Murphy Brown, Fuller House. Sometimes these reboots are successful, others amount to bona fide disasters, but the trend continues with each passing television season.

There will be no reboot of The Golden Girls. In the first place, three of the iconic actresses who played these parts have died; secondly, nobody wants to see a 2020 version of Blanche, Dorothy and Rose - going by age, that would look something like Taraji P. Hansen, Rosalind Chao and Melanie Griffith, which would be great casting for a TV show, but not this one (though Tsai Chin as Sophia in an Asian twist on "Picture it: Shanghai" might be worth the whole thing). The facts need to be faced, squarely and honestly: there can be no such thing as a Golden Girls reboot.

But with The Golden Gays NYC, fans can get the next best thing - even better because audiences don't just get Blanche, Dorothy and Rose, they get new adventures, too. Anybody can take an old Golden Girls script and recreate it on stage, and people could easily take a recorded track from the show and lipsync to it (though one imagines that might bring litigation of some sort). What The Golden Gays NYC have done is painstakingly study the mannerisms and vocal cadences of these famous characters and breathe new life into them with new jokes, new dialogue, new situations, and new performers, because while an audience member gets to enjoy the exploits of The Golden Girls, they will also revel in the talents of the three men who are playing those parts.

In order of billing, The Golden Gays are Jason B. Schmidt as Dorothy, Andy Crosten as Blanche, and Gerry Mastrolia as Rose. Clearly all three men are gifted musical theater actors because, surprise, the show includes musical numbers. There is singing, choreography, and a splendid musical director in the person of Mason Griffin. Each of these men brings their acting talent to their show with skilled comic timing, musical theater prowess, and their work as impressionists. Like most impressionists, none of these men look like the people they are portraying, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan or Betty White (though Schmidt certainly does have the height), but the fun thing is to watch them be these characters with whom they have no physical resemblance! There are times when Mastrolia's vocal quality is so much like that of Rose Nylund that one's jaw drops, and when Mr. Crosten flounces around like Blanche Devereaux it's impossible not to laugh right out loud. Schmidt, who fares the best, seems to have been born with a Bea Arthur spoon in his mouth - his work on the Dorothy Zbornak character is positively uncanny. Together, the three actors bring out, in each other, exemplary work that renders the audience experience one of absolute enjoyment. With individual performances that entertain, these three actors in drag are possessing of a chemistry, rhythm, and trust that allows each of them to relax into the Golden Girl they are playing, which is probably why they are the premiere Golden Girls drag show in the country: respect for their craft, for each other, and for the TV show they are parodying. Some of the credit must, surely, go to director/choreographer Anthony Giorgio and creative consultant Darlene Rae Heller.

It cannot have gone unnoticed that no mention has been made of Sophia's presence in the show. That is because the premise of each show put on by The Golden Gays NYC is that Sophia has gone missing and the three roommates are out looking for her. Using this original premise and scripts, along with songs that viewers will easily recognize (sometimes tweaked, lyrically, to fit the storyline), the show makes great use of memorable moments from the series that will have fans feeling like they have been treated to an Easter Egg or a bit of nostalgia to which they can relate. The online show performed on Monday night began with "The Miami Song," and featured a nod to Rose's big dance in the "One For The Money" episode, not to mention the mandatory eating of cheesecake. They even have a laugh track, appropriate since the half-hour show was structured just like an episode of the sitcom, complete with a set change and mini-dream sequences called "Hot Flashbacks" that took place in the form of an iPad strategically placed in front of the camera being used to broadcast the show. The entire experience was clever, charming, and made great use of the limited production possibilities available to performers still observing isolation safety protocol. On the topic of the current health crisis, the show script on Monday night was completely current, with hand-sanitizer jokes, mask references, Instagram gags, and a Shady Pines Zoom Room - these artists are making sure that their program is up to date and relatable, all the while paying homage to the beloved source material.

Monday night's online performance took place on the StageIt platform, but The Golden Gays NYC have been performing on different platforms every Monday since New York was given a shelter in place order, making a total of 13 shows, some with special guests like Lisa Lampanelli, Mrs. Kasha Davis, or Golden Girls writer Stan Zimmerman. They have done specials like a Mother's Day show, one on one interviews on Instagram and private ZOOM parties for fans who want an individual experience. Fans who attended Monday night's performance were given an opportunity to tip the performers and the five guests who tipped the most were granted a private ZOOM meet and greet with the cast. These aren't just gifted performers, they are savvy businessmen who have taken the bad situation of the global health crisis and quarantine and turned it into a fun way to keep creating and to stay in contact with their multitude of fans. They've created something good here, though on Monday their producer or stage manager was positioned too close to the camera and much of their computer typing and conversation could be heard by the audience - it's an easy thing to fix and something that probably doesn't happen every time. It certainly wasn't enough of a problem to dampen the entertaining half-hour of traveling down the road and back again.

And audiences will come back again, as they have been doing for 13 online shows, because The Golden Gays NYC are serving up shimmery, glittery comedy... and cheesecake.

The Golden Gays NYC will continue to perform on Mondays at 8 pm EST in July, though there is a planned break in August. The platform on which the show is performed has changed a few times, so the best way to get details on their show is to follow The Golden Gays on their social media. Facebook HERE Instagram: @thegoldengaysnyc Website: www.thegoldengaysnyc.com

BWW Review: The Golden Gays NYC Shine In Online Show

Top photo by Kevin Hinkle

"Golden Gays Color" Cartoon by Josh Dunbar


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From This Author Stephen Mosher