Hot Coco spices up Golden Girls in 18th year

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ABOVE: The cast of The Golden Girls Live: The Christmas Episodes at the Victoria Theatre includes (from left) Coco Peru as Dorothy, Holotta Tymes as Sophia, D’Arcy Drollinger as Rose and Matthew Martin as Blanche. BELOW: Martin, Peru, Tymes and Drollinger catch up on their People reading. Photos by Gareth Gooch

This time of year you have your Christmas Carols and your Nutcrackers. Here in San Francisco we have those, but we also have our own traditions. Now in its 18th year, The Golden Girls Live: The Christmas Episodes is one of our homegrown best.

This year’s installment at the Victoria Theatre comes with a tinge of sadness. This is the first production without the late, great Heklina, one of the driving forces behind the show and also one its stars. She played Dorothy Zbornak, the role created in the original TV sereis by Bea Arthur. So who to fill those large (in every sense) shoes?

That’s where the good news comes in. Drag legend and comedy dynamo Miss Coco Peru is now playing Dorothy, and she is superb. It probably helps that Coco was friends with Heklina and Bea Arthur, but she brings her own deft comic timing and inimitable stage presence to the part and absolutely shines. Dry and droll and funny as hell, Coco is the golden gift we all need this holiday season.

Another highly enjoyable aspect of this holiday outing – two episodes from the long-running series, this year they are “From Here to the Pharmacy” from 1991 and “Goodbye Mr. Gordon” from 1992 – is the wildly different styles of the performers. D’Arcy Drollinger (San Francisco’s first drag laureate, thank you very much) directs and co-stars as Rose Nyland (the Betty White) part, and the acting style could best be described as shameless mugging – and it’s hilarious.

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Holotta Tymes is Sophia Petrillo, Dorothy’s mother, and Tymes is so spot-on in the re-creation of Estelle Getty’s indelible characterization that it’s almost like we’re seeing the real thing. And then there’s Matthew Martin, long one of San Francisco’s treasures, as Blanche Devereaux. He takes a little of original star Rue McClanahan and amps up the character with sexpot elements borrowed from every great movie star diva from the 1940s.

The star performers – the Girls, if you will – are experts at squeezing laughs from the sitcom script, but they also seem to be having a ball, laughing at each other and encouraging boisterous audience response. It also helps that the scripts themselves can be laugh-out-loud funny. Some of Dorothy’s lines, especially as delivered by the delectable Coco, are devastatingly funny. My favorite from the first act is, “I’ll say hail Marys until Madonna has a hit movie.” That’s followed closely by Sophia saying she’s saving money for her old age, to which Dorothy gasps, “Old age? You don’t leave fingerprints anymore!”

As in previous years, during the transition moments when there would be commercials on the show, the live version hands the stage over to Tom Shaw for rousing holiday sing-alongs. The raucous songs combined with flowing cocktails from the bar (in the lobby and in the theater before the show and during intermission) gives the even the feel of a Christmas party on the verge of exploding. For my money, this time of year if you’re searching for festivity, that’s just the kind of place you want to be. Thank you for being a friend, indeed.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes continues through Dec. 23 at the Victora Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $40-$75. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. Visit for tickets and info.

Drag rock nirvana in Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls

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The ladies of Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls are (from left) D’Arcy Drollinger as Chablis, Nancy French as Gewürztraminer/Sherry and John Paul Gonzalez as Chardonnay. Below: The cast, including Bobby Barnaby as Chianti and Jane D’Oh as Cabernet, approaches a violent conclusion. Photos by Garaje Gooch

Once the full-out rock song “Flesh Popsicle” has reached its climax, there can be no doubt: Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls is a bona fide rock musical performed by a raucous five-piece band (that includes a one-woman horn section!) and a raging cast of women, men and men-as-women that would send North Carolinians into fits of moral paralysis. In other words, this is an original drag rock musical that kicks (and shakes) some serious booty.

It should come as no surprise that this two-hour slice of “broad” comedy should come from the pen of D’Arcy Drollinger, a co-owner of Oasis and frequent performer on its stage. Drollinger’s shows are consistently entertaining, often hilarious and full of star-turn moments for himself and his wonderful co-stars. He’s working here with composers Enrique and Steve Bolinger (who also plays keyboards), and they contribute a vibrant and vibrating score that includes the aforementioned “Flesh Popsicle,” the instant classic “Thunder Pussy” and the ultra-risqué “Ice Bucket.” If anything, there could be more songs, especially in Act 2.

The whole show is presented like a rock concert, which is entirely appropriate for the story of a rock trio called Super Vixen that is torn asunder when its lead singer, Gewürztraminer (Nancy French) is stolen away by manager Richard “Dick” Face (Manuel Caneri from Warmer Sister Records to become a solo star. Abandoned bandmates Chablis (Drollinger) and Chardonnay (John Paul Gonzalez) turn to drugs and booze, while their friend, now renamed Sherry, climbs up the charts and nabs a Grammy.

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Borrowing liberally from camp classics Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Showgirls, Drollinger, who also directs, keeps the show tight and funny and revved up to arena rock decibels. The supporting cast includes Bobby Barnaby and Jane D’Oh as backup singers Chianti and Cabernet along with Melinda Campero as super fan and aspiring singer Cristal Anderson and the bubbly Lavale William Davis as emcee Karla Rossi. If the entire cast isn’t having a ball with this show, then they’re even better actors than they appear.

Drollinger is so proficient at creating lively shows that he’s going to surprise us one day soon by crafting a true masterpiece – the next Hedwig or Hairspray or some beguiling genre that hasn’t been invented yet. His most recent shows at Oasis have been perfectly suited to wild nights out on the town filled with camp humor, men with the fanciest eye makeup you’ve ever seen and solid comedy. But Drollinger is undoubtedly sharpening his prodigious skills to create the next big thing, and we’ll all look fondly back on its humble origins at Oasis, the nightclub that keeps the San Francisco scene lively, fun and so very San Franciscan.

[bonus video]
Drink in Super Vixen performing “Flesh Popsicle.”

Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls continues through May 14 at Oasis, 298 11th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $10-$250. Call 415-795-3180 or visit

Sweet transvestite! Ray of Light rocks Rocky Horror

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D’Arcy Drollinger as Frank-n-Furter in the Ray of Light Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show at the Victoria Theatre. Photo by Erik Scanlon

Just in time for Halloween, Ray of Light Theatre invites us to come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. Any prospect of a live Rocky Horror Show makes us shiver with antici….SAY IT!…………pation. And here’s the good news: this Rocky is a rollicking ride through one of the most beloved cult musicals of all time.

Jason Hoover, Ray of Light’s artistic director, is at the helm of this full-scale production, which Ray of Light last produced in 2008 when Hoover played Brad Majors, one half of the imperiled couple trapped in a remote and mysterious castle on a sultry, stormy night. With a game cast and some terrific singers, Hoover delivers a high-energy, high-camp Horror that will satisfy even diehard fans of the show and its more popular movie version.

At the center of the action, in the towering heels and fishnetted legs that go on for days, is D’Arcy Drollinger as Dr. Frank-n-Furter, the sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania. Drollinger looks and sounds great, and boy, does he know how to command a stage and work an audience. He’s especially funny at the top of Act 2 when, in shadow, he seduces Brad (Ryan Cowles) and Janet (Chelsea Holifield) individually, corrupting each in the process.

Cowles and Holifield make for an appealingly nerdy couple learning to swim in the warm waters of the sins of the flesh, and on the other end of their spectrum are Frank’s minions, Riff Raff (Paul Hovannes), Magenta (Tielle Baker) and Columbia (Mary Kalita), who lead a rousing “Time Warp.” Hovannes has a spectacular voice, which he puts to good use in a powerhouse “Over at the Frankenstein Place.”

Choreographer Bobby Bryce makes the bustier-clad chorus of phantoms work hard, but he gets great results. There’s energy to spare here, and with his sassy moves, even secondary numbers like “Once in a While” come alive.

Steve Hess has some fun in the dual role of narrator and Dr. Scott, though at Wednesday’s opening night performance, he seemed a trifle thrown by the very active audience participation component involving a select few failing to miss an opportunity to throw up classic and newly fashioned retorts to the dialogue on stage. (My favorite audience jab of the night came at the beginning of Janet’s “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” with the audience line “Tell us about the Giants” preceded her lyric “Couldn’t win.”) This is Rocky Horror, after all, the world’s most famous interactive experience, and though this production forbids the throwing of anything (rice, toast, toilet paper), there’s no ban on tossing off comments (“Asshole!” for every time Brad’s name is spoken, “Slut!” for Janet’s).

Some audience members seemed to love the audience interaction, others were mildly annoyed. But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and for some, that means being part of the show. And honestly, this is such a fun, lively production, who wouldn’t want to be part of it? The gothic set by Kelly Tighe is especially inviting – a grand, sweeping staircase takes up most of the rear of the stage, with cascading red drapes and dripping white candles.

Also adding some pizzazz to the cast are Alex Rodriguez as the barely dressed Rocky who also happens to be a snazzy dancer and Madeleine Pla as the usherette who starts the show with “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and then later as bad boy Eddie.

Just as A Christmas Carol has become the winter holiday perennial, Ray of Light makes a strong case for the annual revival of The Rocky Horror Show, especially with Drollinger as the king and queen of it all.

Ray of Light’s The Rocky Horror Show continues through Nov. 7 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$36. Visit

A toast to Champagne and her wily Poon

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The marvelous cast of Champagne White and The Temple of Poon includes, from left, James Arthur as Sergio, Matthew Martin as Pixie Pardonne Moi, D’Arcy Drollinger as Champagne White, Nancy French as Debbie, Steven LeMay as Mandy and Adam Roy as Jack Hammer. Below: Hammer and Champagne at the scene of the crime: it’s a frame job, I tell ya! Photos by Gareth Gooch

Just when it seems all the colorful characters are fleeing San Francisco, along comes an Oasis of (fake) tits and glitter. Yes, Oasis, the new South of Market nightclub, has defied the real estate odds and become a haven for performers of all stripes, including impresario D’Arcy Drollinger, a co-owner of the club along with drag legend Heklina and several other partners.

Drollinger has to be one of the most interesting people working in Bay Area theater. He plied his trade in San Francisco for a while before moving to New York, but now he’s back, making theater like a madman and taking full advantage of the fact that he has his very own stage.

Before Oasis beckoned, Drollinger was doing shows like Sex and the City Live (read my review here), Project: Lohan (derived from Lilo’s court transcripts, interviews and news reports) and Shit and Champagne, the tale of Champagne White, a stripper character with roots in ’70s blaxploitation movies, 1940s noir and vaudeville by way of the naughty Catskills.

Happily, Champagne is back for what will undoubtedly be a long line of adventures. This time out, she’s cutting an Indiana Jones-type figure in Champagne White and the Temple of Poon, but before she dons the fedora and slings a whip on her belt, she’ll be framed for murder and spend time behind bars in Lady Prison. She’ll also make the most of a glittering gold bikini, go full Lea DeLaria in prison and lead several chases through the streets of San Francisco – one on a skateboard, the other on a motorcycle. In other words, Champagne, with blond curls as big as her boobs, is bad ass. She’s got some stylish kung fu moves, but she doesn’t seem very able to defend herself from a prison gang or from the henchman of her nemesis, Pixie Pardonne Moi (the renamed, reconfigured villain from the first installment, Dixie Stampede).

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It’s delirious fun, with the charismatic Drollinger writing, directing and starring in two-plus hours of delicious drag delight. It’s no surprise that Drollinger can put together a crowd-pleasing show full of ribaldry and raunch. He’s a smart performer and a deft writer and director. You don’t have to know (or care) anything about theater to laugh at the ongoing jokes about a new perfume, Poussé: Scent of a Woman, or the easy joke about Champagne’s recent marriage to Mr. Juan Spitzer, which makes her Champagne White Juan Spitzer, which, naturally, becomes Champagne White Wine Spritzer.

But what’s really wonderful about Drollinger’s work here is that as a writer and director, he’s deftly combining vaudeville with commedia dell’arte imbued with a drag/camp sensibility that is exactly right for the tone of the show. As a performer, Drollinger is the master of the double take and the eye roll aside to the audience. He’s a superb vaudevillian, and he’s surrounded himself with performers who are equally as good, many of whom appeared alongside him in Shit and Champagne. Chief among them is the redoubtable Matthew Martin as the villainess concocting a perfume from harvested G-spots that turns out to be more of a huffable drug than a fragrance d’amour.

With a high kick that could slice open your forehead, Martin is equal parts Cyd Charisse, Joan Crawford and Keyser Söze. Outfitted in a Liza wig (circa mid-’80s) and stylish outfits (costumes by Tria), Martin’s performance is less a drag turn than a really juicy character part (and his brief appearance as a prison bitch is a hoot) performed by an actor who knows exactly what he’s doing.

The biggest surprise in the wonderful supporting cast is Adam Roy as Detective Jack Hammer and other assorted roles (including a very funny lady prison guard and a hilarious strip club owner). Roy is a deft comedian, a true clown who would seem to know his way around the commedia form – not that the audience should care about that beyond the fact that Roy has a precision and commitment to his roles that make him a key player in this well-crafted goofiness.

Steven LeMay is a sweet-natured drag clown of the highest order, especially in the role of Mandy, a fragrant inmate who captivates Champagne, especially with the aroma of pumpkin spice pot pourri emanating from her nethers. Of course her name inspires one of the show’s brightest, funniest moments, a fully choreographed (by Drollinger) number set to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.”

James Arthur shines in multiple roles, especially as queeny Serge, Champagne’s BFF, and Nancy French as Debbie, the world’s most blasé stripper, gets laughs just from the look of disgust that crosses her face every time she has the arduous task of doing anything on stage.

It all adds up to a most enjoyable evening – rough around the edges, hit and miss with individual jokes to be sure – full of energy, low-brow humor and the effervescence you’d expect in an intoxicating Champagne cocktail.

[bonus interview]
I talked to D’Arcy Drollinger about Champagne White and the Temple of Poon for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the feature here.

D’Arcy Drollinger’s Champagne White and the Temple of Poon continues through Sept. 12 at Oasis, 298 11th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$35. Call 415-795-3180 or visit

Raise your cosmos to Sex and the City Live!

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The cast of Sex and the City Live! includes (from left) Heklina as Carrie Bradshaw, Lady Bear as Miranda Hobbes, Alaska as Charlotte York and D’Arcy Drollinger as Samantha Jones. Below: Drollinger’s star turn as sex-positive Samantha practically steals the show. Photos by

“Sex and the City” impressario Darren Star stopped by to see the San Francisco phenomenon known as Sex and the City Live!, a drag romp inspired by his HBO TV series, and his feeling was that the stage show was funnier than the TV show, and he’s absolutely right.

But how could the live version NOT be funnier than the boob-tube version when you’ve got four hilarious drag artistes playing the lusty ladies of Manhattan and the savvy D’Arcy Drollinger directing the whole enterprise? The show has evolved from its salad days at Rebel Bar and has launched a short run (through Aug. 10) at the Victoria Theatre. The place was packed Friday night, and it seemed the audience (a whole lot of women and gay men) was lapping up every detail of the experience, from the show on stage to the shirtless guy selling shots to the cosmos on sale at the bar.

This isn’t exactly a Rocky Horror-type interactive experience, but the audience can’t contain itself and must shout things at the stage from time to time, and the actors play that up big time (especially Drollinger, who steals the show as Samantha Jones and sets out to seduce every person in the house).

The divinely droll Heklina is Carrie Bradshaw, the part that will forever be associated with Sarah Jessica Parker, and she’s a hoot making the most of Carrie’s narcissistic narration and obsession with Mr. Big (played by the invaluable Leigh Crow, who looks a little like Chris Noth and also looks like a Munchkin when standing next to the rather imposing Heklina). Carrie is really the most boring of the quartet, but Heklina finds ways to comment on the character without making her a joke, and her costumes feature some of the largest floral accents ever seen on a human being.

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Lady Bear’s take on uptight lawyer Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon on TV) is full of sass and cynicism, and her tangle with a chocolate cake (especially once it’s in the garbage can) is hilarious. Alaska of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame, is prissy Charlotte York (the Kristin Davis part) has the more challenging task of convincing us she’s a prudish WASP on the hunt for a husband, but she’s got some good wig-flipping moments, especially when dealing with a man who shouts out obscenities in bed.

Watching Drollinger channel Kim Cattrall‘s Samantha Jones provides one big laugh after another. His intonation and body language are perfect. If Catrall is unavailable for that elusive third big-screen “Sex” outing, they should hire Drollinger.

Playing various boyfriends and secondary characters are Andy Alabran and Jordan Wheeler, who more than hold their own against the leading ladies, which is saying something.

Taking the best bits of more than a half-dozen “Sex and the City Episodes,” director Drollinger and his crew have fashioned two episodes (complete with an outstanding video title sequence) that give each of the ladies a substantial plot and plenty of laugh lines. It’s not at all surprising that two of the plot lines involve the same body part. In one, Charlotte is anxious about becoming the “up the butt girl” (“Men don’t marry the up the butt girl,” she says) and in the other, Miranda encounters a partner who performs “tuchis-lingus.”

As parodies go, this one is pretty loving, and some of the original writing in this mish-mash is pretty funny on its own. But you come to Sex and the City Live!” for the ladies, and they do not disappoint. Tickets are only $15 – the best deal you’ll get on Sex in this or any other city.

Sex and the City Live! continues through Aug. 10 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $30. Click here for tickets.

Can’t resist the charms of Mr. Irresistible

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Cindy Goldfield (left) is Eileen, Steven Shear (center) is Mr. Irresistible and Colin Thomson is Joey the exterminator in D’Arcy Drollinger and Christopher Winslow’s Mr. Irresistible, a new musical comedy at the Alcazar Theatre. Below: It’s like horny Christmas as Eileen (Goldfield) receives a boyfriend in a box (Shear). Photo courtesy of

There’s a lot of old-fashioned musical theater charm in Mr. Irresistible, a new musical by D’Arcy Drollinger and Christopher Winslow now having a short run at the Alcazar Theatre. It’s a new-fashioned musical in the sense that there’s camp, drag, sass, murder and a ménage à trois, but there’s also a sort of sweet familiarity to it all that keeps everything grounded in the realm of appealing musical comedy.

Winslow’s appealing music and Drollinger’s smart book and lyrics are what might happen if you cross Little Shop of Horrors with 9 to 5. There’s lonelyheart misery and workplace nastiness combined with a little sci-fi robotics to make it a little more interesting.

The central character, Eileen, is someone we’ve seen before: a doofus who just can’t win. Her love life (what love life?) pales in comparison to the bodice-rippers she reads so ardently. And what with her mop of curls and her inability to tone down clashes in her personal wardrobe, she’s an object of ridicule in the big corporate office in which she’s been a temp for four years.

One of the score’s highlights occurs early on when we meet the mean girls (and the mean gay mail boy) of the office in “WORK!,” which shows off the skills of the cast in capturing the zippy campy comic tone of the show. It also shows off the sparky choreography by Drollinger and John Paolillo.

Tired of being miserable, Eileen takes action and orders herself a Mr. Irresistible robot, which promises to be the ultimate boy friend, seeing to her every need and making her happy whatever the cost.

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Eileen could be a real dolt, but she’s not because she’s played by Cindy Goldfield, a performer so delightful and disarming she couldn’t be a dolt if she tried. In the Carol Burnett/Imogene Coca mold, Goldfield knows exactly what to do with the character to give her heart and comic chops. She has a sweet voice and a way to get you rooting for Eileen, especially as the world around her comes crashing down in bloody waves.

It’s clear from the start of this nearly 2 1/2-hour show that Eileen should be with Joe, the exterminator (the wonderful Colin Thomson), but because he doesn’t conform to romance novel standards, he’s cast aside, much the way Eileen is at work by her coworkers. Instead, Eileen succumbs to the digital charms of Mr. Irresistible, played with sinister élan by Steven Shear. When Eileen casually mentions she could “just strangle” an annoying co-worker, the robot takes her request literally. And so begins the bloodbath.

But even as the bodies pile up, this musical, under the direction of Jonathan Carpenter remains resolutely upbeat. The zippy pace is helped tremendously by the video projections created by Richard Neveu, which add a strong sense of place and humor to the proceedings. I’m not generally a fan of such heavy use of projections in a live theater setting, but when a show is on a budget and the projections are this slick, it’s hard to resist them. Just as it’s hard to resist the supporting cast, which includes James M. Arthur as Billy, Jessica Coker as Tina, J. Conrad Frank as Kat, Kristen Iuppenlatz Grech as Jan, Eliza Leoni as Debbie and the indispensable Joe Wicht as Mr. Abernathy.

As delightful as Mr. Irresistible is, this is still clearly a show in progress. Some numbers go on too long and others will likely not make the next cut. There’s a loss of focus and momentum in the chaos of Act 2, which bleeds some oomph from the ending. But the charm and dazzle is ever present, making Mr. Irresistible live up to its name. It seems highly likely we’ll be hearing more about this lively show in the very near future.

Mr. Irresistible continues through Sunday, June 8 at the Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25. Visit or call 415-766-4588 for information.