Golden Girls’ spoof sashays into Mid-City Theatre

Photo by BRIAN JOHNSTON -- Clockwise from top, Varla Jean Merman, Brooklyn Shaffer, Ricky Graham and Sean Patterson are part of the cast of Mid-City Theatre's 'The Golden Girls.'
Photo by BRIAN JOHNSTON -- Clockwise from top, Varla Jean Merman, Brooklyn Shaffer, Ricky Graham and Sean Patterson are part of the cast of Mid-City Theatre's 'The Golden Girls.'

GIRL TALK

THEY’RE BAAACK! Those fun-loving guys in women’s clothing, playing the roles of four ladies in a TV show.

Last spring, they were the stars of the “Re-Designing Women” show. This time around, Jeffrey Roberson (aka Varla Jean Merman), Ricky Graham and Brian Peterson (aka Brooklyn Shaffer) are playing the roles of Blanche, Sophia and Rose in “The Golden Girls,” with Sean Patterson playing Dorothy. The show opens Friday, Dec. 27, at Mid-City Theatre and runs through Jan. 12.

“The Golden Girls,” which aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992, was one of the most popular sitcoms of its time. Starring four retirees who lived together in a south Florida condo, the show was both humorous and serious, offering snappy one-liners as well as sobering, real-life situations and crises.

“We had so much fun doing ‘Re-Designing Women,’ we decided we were going to do something like it again,” Roberson said. The “Golden Girls” spoof has been in the planning stages even before “Re-Designing Women” closed in early June, he said.

“‘Re-Designing Women’ went over so well, that we thought, ‘Let’s do something else with a TV theme, another show with four women,’ ” Roberson explained. “‘The Golden Girls’ was an obvious and easy choice to make.”

The Mid-City production will incorporate three separate episodes from the original show.

As the Rue McClanahan character, Blanche, Roberson has “the most fun role.” A Southern belle in the mold of Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Blanche was best-remembered for constantly boasting in her syrupy accent about her past beaus, none of whom are seen in this production.

“We only hear about them,” Roberson said. “But, at one point in the show, Blanche thinks she’s pregnant, and we come to find out she’s just going through the change of life. That was kind of a daring episode when it aired.”

In another episode, titled “Isn’t it Romantic,” Dorothy has a friend named Jean who comes to visit. As Roberson explained, “Her significant other, Pat, has died and all the girls think that Pat is a guy. But it turns out she was a lesbian and she ends up falling in love with Rose, the Betty White character, and Rose doesn’t know how to handle it.”

Also in this production, some small parts will be played by Brian Johnston, who was in “Re-Designing Women,” and Jefferson Turner, who will also play piano for a jingle from the original show, titled “Miami.”

Patterson, in the Bea Arthur role of Dorothy, is the newcomer to this production, replacing Jack Long, who was in “Re-Designing Women” and recently moved out of town.

As the cast member with the fewest lines, Graham, in the Estelle Getty role of Sophia, is happy to be taking a backseat to the others in this production.

Having just finished directing “A Tuna Christmas” for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, he is co-directing “The Golden Girls” with Roberson.

“This is great,” Graham commented. “I get to step out and look at it and help put it together a lot easier than if I had a large role in it. It is a nice change from what I’m used to.

“When you have a great cast of comic actors like we do here, you basically stand back and give basic direction,” Graham continued. “We’ve all worked together before so we know each other’s moves and styles. We don’t have to do a lot of explaining. We just get in there and joke around, share ideas and have fun.”

Because this is a show where the jokes will be coming, at times, in rapid succession, Graham said he’s confident the cast is experienced enough to know how to hold back their next lines while the audience is still laughing.

“It may take a night or two in front of an audience to see where the biggest laughs are, but we kind of have an idea where they will be already,” Graham explained. “We’re hoping they come where we think they will. This is a group of seasoned hands. They all have that innate sense of knowing when a laugh is coming, and they know how to hold off on their next lines.”

Echoing the feelings expressed by Roberson, Graham agreed, “This is going to be a fun show.”