Hilarious camp comes to the Warner in ‘Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue’

The beloved franchise as a comedy in drag makes for a fabulous night out.

Picture it: Shady Pines. 2023. The Golden Girls are back — and funnier than ever. Director Eric Swanson and the talented cast of characters present a hilarious story full of heart — it is camp with a capital C.

The Cast of ‘Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue.’ Photo courtesy of Murray & Peter Present.

Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue by Robert Leleux is a continuation of the beloved four friends set in modern times, featuring character-driven antics from the acclaimed series while adding sex-positive plot points and updated references. The innuendos and double entendres are woven throughout the script and delivered with expert comedic timing by the cast. Each character is given their own moments to shine as a versatile performer — including a surprise Broadway-caliber moment for one of the girls. The show is produced by Murray & Peter Present, the power duo behind the biggest drag tours and shows across the world.

The television series The Golden Girls centers on four older women living together in the community of Shady Pines in Miami Beach. Dorothy is the matriarch of the group and acts as the “straight man” in most storylines. Her mother, Sophia, is a Sicillian firecracker with a razor-sharp tongue. Blanche is a sultry Southern belle from Georgia, reveling in her many gentlemen callers. Rose is a sweet but dim soul, often sharing stories about her life at St. Olaf in Minnesota. The television show tackled a wide range of societal issues in its seven seasons and is widely considered one of the top sitcoms of all time, heralded as boundary-breaking for highlighting issues including the HIV/AIDS epidemic, immigration, homosexuality, age discrimination, antisemitism, interracial marriage, and more.

The Golden Girls remains a beloved franchise for the disenfranchised — and is often referenced by female impersonators and drag performers. In this production of Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue, Ryan Bernier as Dorothy is simply fantastic. His vocal tone is a pitch-perfect match for Bea Arthur’s noteworthy lower voice. Though character is typically the “straight man” of the fabulous four friends, this story gives Dorothy more opportunities to explore her sexuality and pursue her own happy ending. Bernier’s portrayal was truly a tribute performance, adding new humor and life to the character of Dorothy.

Christopher Kamm’s mannerisms are spot on for Sophia, from the shuffling walk and broad gestures to biting line delivery. Kamm’s makeup is also the most dramatic of the four and was very convincing from our seats in the mezzanine. Blanche is as sultry as ever – and Vince Kelley delivers on each tawdry line and flirtatious pose. Kelley seems to have the most fun with the audience, breaking the fourth wall and letting them in on the fun. Blanche is always butting into others’ business and frequently asks how old each friend is, because based on the math from the original show, each woman would be well into their golden years by 2023.

Jason Bowen plays several different characters in the show, most notably Dorothy’s ex-husband, Stanley, and her new love interest, Burt. Both men are in love with Dorothy but have very different ways of expressing it — and Bowen shows great versatility and improvisational skill in the roles. The standout for me is Adam Graber as Rose. Playing the fool is a tricky balance of setting up punchlines without becoming a perpetual punching bag. Betty White had a knack for the timing and nuance needed for the task — and Graber nails it. They never pulled focus when it wasn’t their time to shine, but when the moment called, Rose was there with a question or observation ready to be volleyed. Graber uses a Minnesotan lilt on certain words and phrases that are particularly funny — especially in Act 2.

The set design by Michael Johns is a 1990s Floridian time capsule. Most action occurred in the living room with a few key scenes in the kitchen. Unfortunately, the blocking in the kitchen is obscured due to the set placement too far upstage for the sight lines of the Warner Theatre. I recommend sitting in the center of the theater if possible. Vince Kelley’s costume design and Dan Gagnon’s wig design are impeccable — each character wears a look that perfectly represents their unique personalities while remaining quintessential to the time.

This production makes for a fabulous night out, so gather your girlfriends and get your tickets for Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue for their limited run in Washington, DC.

Running Time: One hour 40 minutes with one 20-minute intermission.

Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue plays through February 26, 2023, presented by Murray & Peter Present at the Warner Theater, 1299 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. For tickets ($29–$64), visit dragfans.com/tour/golden-girls-tour/


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