It turns out that parodies of the 1985-92 sitcom “The Golden Girls” abound nationwide. But it’s hard to imagine a better stage spoof of that TV series than “The Golden Girls Live! The Christmas Episodes,” a drag show produced annually for 18 years now by Oasis Arts.
Or, for that matter, one more suitable for San Francisco’s particular, idiosyncratic culture.
“The Golden Girls Live!” chooses, from the original TV show, two half-hour scripts each year and takes hilarious liberties with them—the episodes, in the hands of these four performers, are loaded with innuendos, ad libs, and audience interaction. (On a recent Friday night, audience interaction at the Victoria Theatre reached a pinnacle when the opening was delayed by 40 minutes due to a faulty circuit board; the enthusiastic packed house cheerfully accepted the delay to a show that already promised to run two and a half hours.)
This year’s rendition is notable for a cast replacement: The much-loved performer Heklina —who had long played the statuesque, authoritative Dorothy, the voice of reason among the quartet of older women rooming together in a condo in Miami—died recently. Coco Peru stepped into the role, not only looking perfect for the part as a tall figure in a puffy gray wig with the stern and disapproving demeanor of a schoolmarm but sounding uncannily like the late Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy in the TV series. Peru hits every vocal note: accent, tone and timbre, pacing.
Peru is terrific, but so are the long-term regulars: Oasis artistic director and owner D’Arcy Drollinger (who also, brilliantly, directed the show) wringing out every naughty nuance in portraying the sunny, naïve Rose; Matthew Martin as sexaholic Blanche, endlessly sashaying around the stage and flirting with the adoring audience; and Holotta Tymes as Sophia, Dorothy’s diminutive, daffy mother, although it must be said that Tymes has an ongoing problem with lines, unfortunate in a show where everything hinges on timing.
Otherwise the timing is spot-on throughout.
As in an actual “taped-before-a-live-audience” TV show, breaks are required for actors to change costumes. Here, pianist Tom Shaw (and Manuel Caneri and Michael Phillis on alternate nights) in a Santa Claus hat entertained with a sing-along of holiday music to fill in those breaks, and it’s worth it if only to see designer Michael Pereira’s mind-boggling costumes, everything from Rose decked out like an Easter egg in blinding yellow to a succession of bathrobes and bedroom slippers that are somehow sweet and comical to Blanche’s wildly patterned micro-mini-skirts and more.
Whether you were a devotee of the original series or are a card-carrying member of San Francisco’s LGBTQ culture, this ought to satisfy on many levels. A scene in the second act, in which Dorothy and Blanche are mis-categorized as lesbian lovers on a public TV show, is an opportunity for the “The Golden Girls Live!” to mine the text on multiple levels. It’s fall-out-of-your-seat humor at its best.
“The Golden Girls Live: The Christmas Episodes” continues through Dec. 23 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francico. Tickets are $35-$75 at thegoldengirlslive.com.