One difficulty in re-staging a play is staying true to the original while adding something fresh and interesting. Alley Repertory Theater's The Golden Girls Christmas Extravaganza, hilariously hits that sweet spot with its take on San Francisco's beloved holiday drag show.
The performance is comprised of excerpts from holiday episodes of The Golden Girls TV show, interspersed with musical numbers and funny '80s-inspired commercial sketches.
The girls are portrayed by Jodi Eichelberger as Dorothy,Boise Weekly's own Minerva Jayne as Blanche, Steven Lanzet as Sophia and Steven Santos as Rose.
In the Nov. 19 preview performance, Eichelberger was spot-on—his voice, demeanor and long pauses were quintessential Dorothy, and he brought as much humor to her deadpan delivery in this version of Golden Girls as Bea Arthur did in hers. Some of the funniest lines in the production don't belong to Eichelberger, yet he earned some of the night's biggest laughs.
For being so dim-witted, Rose is a surprisingly complex character and, though Santos may still be navigating those deep waters, he brought an authentic sweetness to the big-hearted ditz.
Part of what made Sophia so engaging was the huge personality contained in such a tiny package—Estelle Getty wasn't even 5 feet tall. Lanzet isn't nearly as small as Sophia but was just as feisty and funny; and Minerva Jayne, as Blanche Devereaux, was inspired casting on the part of director Justin Ness. Jayne channeled the Southern belle, bringing the vivacious vixen to life and somehow managing at times to be more Blanche than Blanche herself.
Kudos to Nick Garcia for the between-scene sketch scripts and his turn as Stan (Dorothy's ex-husband), Taylor Hawker for seamlessly integrating his role as emcee, Tess Worstell for her accomplished piano accompaniment and Liberty Leeds, Kelly Lynae and Kenna Marks for their spirited singing.
Alley Repertory's Golden Girls Christmas Extravaganza could easily have dragged the characters into caricatures but instead of parody, the show lovingly and humorously pays homage to Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia in a laugh-out-loud blast from the pastiche.