BWW Review: THE GOLDEN GIRLS PARODY at Starlight Theatre Indoors
March 6 through March 8, Starlight Theatre Indoors hosted a delightful and well performed mostly family-friendly entertainment, a puppet parody version of the late 1980s TV situation comedy THE GOLDEN GIRLS. To say this show is just a little derivative is a gross understatement, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. Packed with double entendres and insult humor similar to the original TV version, the language is mostly GP-rated with only one notable exception.
First the setup. THE GOLDEN GIRLS was produced by Thomas Witt Productions just after Norman Lear brought us everybody's favorite bigot ARCHIE BUNKER in ALL IN THE FAMILY. The premise is four older, single ladies have retired to Southern Florida. They are hard edged Dorothy (originally played by Bea Arthur), her still older, 80ish, sassy, Mother, Sophia (played by Estelle Getty), Minnesota naïve Rose (charmingly brought to life by Betty White), and the overage Southern sexpot Blanche (Rue McClanahan) who also owns the house in which they are living. The first to be hired was Estelle Getty, but viewers would have to be forgiven for seeing Bea Arthur's Dorothy as the lead character. She is absolutely related to Maude, an earlier, similar, Arthur character who was Edith Bunker's cousin in ALL IN THE FAMILY and in the later spinoff MAUDE. These four in GOLDEN GIRLS turned out to be lightning in a bottle for the series and kept audiences chuckling for seven years.
This version of THE GOLDEN GIRLS is very close to the original scripts or at least to the original jokes from the TV show except that it is performed with puppets that are spun off from a show called Avenue Q which is (in turn) spun off from the Muppets who still live on Sesame Street. Avenue Q was an hysterical musical, but substantially more blue than this 90 minute straight comedy version of THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Try to imagine the Muppets at an age when they could all collect Social Security.
It is interesting to note that this particular Starlight Indoors audience was significantly younger (as a group) than many who have attended this winter. GOLDEN GIRLS went off the air in 1992 or twenty-eight years ago. That means that while GOLDEN GIRLS may be somewhat familiar in reruns, many of the standard gags (no pun intended) were pretty much new or at least unfamiliar to audience members. This added to the enjoyment considerably.
Like in AVENUE Q, THE GOLDEN GIRLS puppeteers are dressed in black and completely visible to the audience. The actors pretty much mirror their original characters. These very young folks on tour do a really nice job. Tiny, Ashley Brooke plays the inappropriately insulting, octogenarian Sophia. Red haired Erin Ulman is the original Dixie chick, the man trolling Blanche. Colleen Walsh is Lake Olaf clueless as Rose. The one surprise in casting is huge Luke Dumbrowski as Dorothy. To get that joke, you have to know that Bea Arthur was over six foot tall and spoke in a very obvious baritone voice.
The puppets are all very done as is the set and the lighting design. The show is pretty much an extended version of the typical sitcom scripts. It is pretty funny stuff both because of the puppets and because of a charming peek into our collective rear view mirrors.
Sadly, except for Betty White, all the original actors have passed on. Estelle Getty (the Mom) was actually younger than Bea Arthur (Dorothy) and contemporary with Rue McClanahan. Betty White is now 98 years old, smart as a whip, and sassy as ever. She still works occasionally.
THE GOLDEN GIRLS was set for only a short run and closed Sunday, but if it shows up again (especially at Starlight next year) it is worth your time to travel back to Florida in the 1980s.
Photos courtesy of Starlight Theatre.