(Charles Kruger)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Crtiics Circle (SFBATCC)

“The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes” presented by Trannyshack at the Victoria Theatre. Director: Matthew Martin. Set: Nathan Rapport. Lighting: Joe D’Emilio. Costumes: Van Hedwall.

Clayton: Laurie Bushman. Jean/Diego: Manuel Caneri. Rose Nyland: Pollo Del Mar. Sophia Petrillo: Cookie Dough. Dorothy Zbornak: Heklina. Blanche Devereaux: Matthew Martin.

Of course San Francisco has a long and (nowadays) honored history as a mecca of drag culture. Back in the 1950s, the great Jose Sarria inaugurated the underground royal court. Did you know there is a drag empress of San Francisco? Oh yes.

Sarria (still alive and well) was (in)famous for his drag versions of grand opera at The Black Cat Cafe, Carmen being his most popular role. In 1961, he garnered 6,000 votes in his run for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, establishing the existence of a significant gay voting bloc in our fair city.

The tradition of inspired drag humor has continued through the inimitable Cockettes and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and on to the popular performers of Trannyshack.

Heklina, Cookie Dough, Pollo Del Mar and Matthew Martin in Trannyshack's "The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes" at The Victoria Theatre. Photo Credit: Trannyshack.com.

It is Trannyshack who has brought us, for the past several years, the riotously funny: “The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes”.

Performing spot-on impersonations of the original cast members, the company recreate scripts (expertly written by Hollywood pros Jeffrey Duteil and Marc Cherry) from the original broadcasts of the 1980s and 90s.

Under the polished direction of Matthew Martin (who is gut-bustingly funny as Blanche Devereaux), the girls are golden indeed. Cookie Dough‘s mincing recreation of Estelle Getty‘s Sophia Petrillo starts the laughter from the first moment and it only gets better from there.

It is astonishing to see the great Heklina as Bea Arthur/Dorothy. Close your eyes and it’s Bea Author’s foghorn of a voice coming at you. Heklina achieves a pitch perfect imitation, and then takes it just a little bit more over the top. Consider that for a moment: how on earth do you do Bea Arthur, of all people, and take her a little bit more over the top? Talk about gilding the lilly! But that is the essence of drag performance, and Heklina is a world class practitioner.

On opening night only, D’Arcy Drollinger replaced Pollo Del Mar as Rose Nyland, and gave a lovely rendition of Betty White‘s comic dizziness.

But the brightest bulb in this comic chandelier was surely Matthew Martin’s Blanche Devereaux/Rue McClanahan. His physical gyrations, always rooted in McClanahan’s original creation, nearly made me fall off my seat with laughter.

Laurie Bushman in male drag as Blanche’s gay brother Clayton gets plenty of laughs as well.

The opening night performance was capably emceed by Fernando and Greg, popular gay radio personalities, with Fernando appearing as Clayton’s boyfriend/fiance Diego and Dorothy’s friend Jean—parts that will be played by Manuel Caneri for the rest of the run.

If you want to laugh, The Golden Girls will not disappoint. This show is as likely to be as much fun as you’ll have anywhere this holiday season. And it is the perfect event for out-of-town guests who want a taste of something uniquely San Francisco.

Definitely recommended. For further information, click here.


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