Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Podculture: “Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue” is golden

A review of the play Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue.  

[“Golden Girls” theme]

MICAH SANDY: You may have heard the Golden Girls theme song on your TV, but last Tuesday, Chicagoans heard it live on stage as part of the touring production, Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue.

LYDIA PLAHN: We saw it opening night at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, and we have a lot to say.

[music fade in]

MICAH SANDY: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Micah Sandy.

LYDIA PLAHN: And I’m Lydia Plahn. This is Podculture, a podcast about arts and culture on campus and beyond.

MICAH SANDY: Okay, so I thought the Golden Girls show was –

LYDIA PLAHN: Wait, shouldn’t we give some background?

MICAH SANDY: Ohhh, yeah, you’re right. If you don’t know, The Golden Girls is a sitcom that originally aired from 1985 to 1992. It starred some pretty good big names including Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and the legend herself Betty White, as four senior citizens living together in Miami, Florida. Quickly the show became an iconic pop culture moment .

LYDIA PLAHN: I don’t know about you but I went to high school with kids who wore Golden Girls shirts. And, and like as you mentioned, I don’t think you can grow up watching TV and not know the lyrics to the theme song. I personally didn’t watch a lot of Golden Girls growing up, but I still knew the plot and the characters. Like, if I saw those four women anywhere, I instantly would be able to know that they are the Golden Girls.

MICAH SANDY: Yeah definitely. It’s one of those shows you can watch whenever and I’d watch it whenever it played in my house, maybe a few times a month, a few times a week. It’s not one of those shows that requires you to watch an entire season to understand an episode, it just makes it purely enjoyable.

LYDIA PLAHN: Similarly, I would definitely say that you don’t need a lot of background knowledge or need to know a lot about the television show to understand the play version, “Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue,” it was written by Robert Leleux and it’s essentially a parody of the original show that brings a more R-rated style of comedy to the classic.

MICAH SANDY: The play is about Rose, Blanche, Sophia and Dorothy grappling with Sophia’s impending trial for dealing drugs. Yep, you heard that right, dealing drugs. To her senior neighbors at Shady Pines retirement home. This is kind of a recurring bit — the fact that this incredibly tame looking woman in her little purse and glasses, but she was like dealing hard core drugs to her old neighbors. She also has a literal ankle monitor which is funny to see on stage when the lights go off especially and you just see a little green light walking around stage, and it forces you to never forget that she may or may not go to jail. Blanche and Rose are funny enough, starting a dating app for senior citizens that allows them to meet other elderly people. It’s called CreakN.

LYDIA PLAHN: And I think the joke here is like, a super loud creak sound effect happens whenever anyone gets a message on the app and throughout the show everytime the sound effect goes off the crowd loses it.

MICAH SANDY: And another element of this joke is the reference of “CreakN” to either the creak of a rocking chair or the creak of an older person’s knees, which again is a funny built-in pun. That’s right: this play showcases the iconic Golden Girls living it up in 2023. And, after Dorothy having romance troubles, they get her to download the app.

LYDIA PLAHN: And if I can add, right from the get-go, it is clear that the show is really trying to transport you into like 1980s Miami. And in my opinion it nails it. The set is immaculate and if it weren’t for stage lights you could be in someone’s vacation home 40 years ago. The overbearing pink rattan furniture and fake potted plants all scream “Designed by a grandma!”

MICAH SANDY: And the actors do a great job of replicating the TV characters on stage too.

LYDIA PLAHN: One hundred percent, the first time Rose walked on the stage and opened her mouth, I heard the women next to me audibly gasp because of how impressive her voice and character was. The impersonations of the original characters were incredible. And even as someone who is not super familiar with the show, it was clear to me that these voices and mannerisms were being perfectly executed on stage.

MICAH SANDY: For a split second, I thought they’d brought in Betty White to play Rose. He was spot on. And don’t get me started on the makeup and hair. If you do a side-by-side comparison of this cast and that of the original show, the hair is uncanny. From my seat, I genuinely thought Sophia’s character was indeed old. I could never have guessed that it was make-up adding all of those years.

I’d like to warn listeners of potential spoilers as well. If you plan on watching this play, continue with caution.

LYDIA PLAHN: I also want to add that I think the costuming really added to the whole world building of this show. In the best way, a lot of the clothes looked like they could have been found on a Goodwill rack. They really just don’t make neon printed blouses and cardigans like that anymore. I really was not prepared for the quality and the magnitude of the costumes, hair, and makeup before I saw the show.

MICAH SANDY: Before walking in, I must say, I was expecting to laugh maybe once or twice. Golden Girls is a funny show, but after watching some parody shows that really missed the mark, I didn’t have high expectations. I thought I’d only hear the older audience members laugh, but I was so wrong. Aside from making up-to-date jokes relevant to this century, and decade I guess, there were just so many comebacks and jabs that kept it true to the original show. In between jokes about THE Stanley Tumbler and TikTok, there were like genuine bouts of laughter, and it was a natural laugh track. There was no laugh track, it was us.

LYDIA PLAHN: Definitely, I think one of the things that really stuck out to me about the comedic style was, as you mentioned, the relevance of the comedy. In a world full of remakes, we see reboots that struggle to bring modern technology and lingo from a dated time into the present. It’s no easy task and oftentimes, writers will fail to make it seem organic. But with Golden Girls, they nail the modern elements. The women hold cell phones like they are accessories and call cheesecake “bussin” –– which I think definitely made the show appeal to every age.

MICAH SANDY: And can we talk about Jason Bowen? He plays two roles, Stanley and Burt, and he definitely is in on the joke himself. Like, he embraces the fact that he is playing both these really masculine roles. Stan is Dorothy’s ex-husband who loves to come back to the house despite insults from both Dorothy and her mother. But Burt, he’s a young stud that Dorothy met on CreakN and is her love interest throughout the show and crazy enough, he is also the prosecutor on Sophia’s case. Bowen really leans into the dual roles and knows that he is in on that joke. When Stan comes on stage, his wig cap was partly off, revealing hair at the front. And at first, I thought it was a wardrobe malfunction or some sort of mistake at first but then after seeing Sophia pull his toupee off later in the play they were definitely making all these choices. In between that, we met Burt. And this wig placement, confirmed as intentional in online promotional material, is helping emphasize the differences between Burt and Stan in a way that TV shows with single castings wouldn’t.

LYDIA PLAHN: I agree, there were a lot of things in this show that you just simply couldn’t get away with on television. The raunchy jokes and the larger than life stage presences simply would be hard to capsure on a TV screen.

MICAH SANDY: Not to mention the lighting. I don’t know anyone whose house has on-demand spotlights, but this one certainly did, and at the best moments possible. From showing the highs and lows of getting high from baked goods to depicting Broadway musical daydreams, they definitely made you think ‘Oh, so that’s what’s going on inside their head.’ There is a certain scene when Rose gets accidentally high from cheesecake and they blast these swirling colorful lights around her head, it really puts you in the high mindset.

LYDIA PLAHN: There is also a moment in the show when Dorothy is considering running away to New York to pursue show business. Then dramatically, a sparkly curtain falls down and she begins a solo of “Everything’s coming up Dorothy” referencing the iconic song from “Gypsy.” and It brings the house down, the lighting there is a super big spotlight on her and even though this play may be based on a sitcom, the performance never loses sight of the fact that at its core, it is a theater production.

MICAH SANDY: And I think it’s important to mention it also has its touching moments, one is when we take a break from the comedy and Sophia reveals why she sold drugs because…yeah, why did she? She was selling marijuana brownies for seniors with glaucoma and in addition to making LSD cheesecakes to order, as a distraction for being old.

LYDIA PLAHN: This harks back to the earlier point about why Blanche and Rose started the dating app in the first place –– to give seniors a place to enjoy life, something that the crazy ladies of Shady Pines definitely know how to do. You definitely leave the show with a home like feeling. Something about the grandma vibe really carries on with you after the show. I think it’s really funny the juxtaposition and the contrast between this grandma wholesome vibe and the raunchy comedy and the funny quips between the women. The joy and good vibes really stay with you –– and I will admit that some of the jokes I really actually was thinking about the next day and laughed out loud.

MICAH SANDY: And before you knew it, it was all over. And I kind of wish it was longer because wow was that funny. Before being met by a standing ovation, the actors engaged in not one, not two, not three … well actually, I have no idea how many group hugs. At least four? So much hugging, you could almost feel it, just like in the show.

LYDIA PLAHN: We highly recommend you catch this show, whether you’re a long-time fan or you just learned of The Golden Girls’ existence. It’ll be playing at Broadway Playhouse through Feb. 25 and then back for a second run in May, so catch it while you can.

And thank you for listening, and…

[Golden Girls theme singing: “thank you for being a friend.” ]

[music fade in]

LYDIA PLAHN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Lydia Plahn.

MICAH SANDY: And I’m Micah Sandy. Thanks for listening to another episode of Podculture. This episode was reported by us and produced by me.

LYDIA PLAHN: The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Anita Li, the digital managing editors are Ashley Lee and Micah Sandy, and the editor-in-chief is Avani Kalra.

MICAH SANDY: Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

[music fade out]

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @LydiaPlahn13

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @TheMicahSandy

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