For a sitcom that stopped producing new episodes more than 30 years, “The Golden Girls” remains remarkably au courant. The core story of the life and times of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, four lively, older, single women (three widows and one divorcée), all sharing an abode in Miami, was good for 180 critically acclaimed episodes over seven seasons on NBC. But loving drag parodies from New York to the Sunshine State itself have been ubiquitous since the show went off the air.
In Chicago, Hell in a Handbag Productions first cornered the market for what they billed as “the geriatric fab four.” But now comes “The Golden Gals Live!,” a commercial attraction from Florida that’s the brainchild of Joshua Eads. Eads’ drag persona is Ginger Minj, one of the stars of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and a queen with a notable following; Eads writes and directs and Minj plays Blanche, the role made famous by Rue McClanahan.
Also oscillating around the pastel furniture: Gidget Galore as Rose (the Betty White role), Divine Grace as Dorothy (Bea Arthur) and MR MS Adrien as Sophia (originally Estelle Getty). Jason Richards plays a bevy of the wacky minor characters that enlivened the TV series.
If you don’t well remember “The Golden Girls” then “The Golden Gals Live!” is not your show. If you like watching past episodes on YouTube, love these characters and recall the basic scenarios of the show, you’ll likely have a fun time here. You’ll certainly be among fellow travelers.
What you’re buying, in essence, is an original “Golden Girls” story that employs characters, various running gags, famous bits and timeless schtick from the TV show, as performed on a set that looks like the sitcom. You’re not so much getting impressions of the original cast as, well, evocations.
Whether this all merits a full two acts is open to serious debate, or would be in anyone cared, but the break at least allows the audience to refill wine and cocktails that you might say are a pretty essential component of this particular shared experience.
On opening night, a few of the lines were more than a bit wobbly but that mostly just added to the fun. Divine Grace was exceptionally droll as Dorothy, the Eeyore of this particular bunch. But Ginger Minj is the star attraction here and the jokes and energy liven up whenever she is on the stage. I had a pleasant, relaxing chortle or two.
Note that the entrepreneurial “Golden Gals” have rented out the Mercury Theater, an ideally intimate venue for this kind of show, and this is not a homegrown affair. Nonetheless, these Golden Gals are planning a tour after this run, attempting no doubt to cast off the drag of mortality.
Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.
Review: “The Golden Gals Live!” (2.5 stars)
When: Through Feb. 12
Where: Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave.
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Tickets: $39-$75 at mercurytheatrechicago.com