The hardest working queen in showbiz? That’d be Ginger Minj (fight me). After three stints on RuPaul’s Drag Race (season seven, All Stars 2, and All Stars 6), the breakout star and two-time RDR finalist has kept busy with countless live shows, small screen hits, a trio of studio albums that showcase her Broadway-worthy belt and theater productions the world over, including last year’s Music Theater Works staging of La Cage aux Folles. Royalty of this caliber deserves better than The Golden Gals Live! (This Fruit Wine Productions offering at Mercury Theater Chicago should not be confused with Hell in a Handbag’s long-running The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes local franchise.)
Neither an homage nor a parody of the groundbreaking, iconic sitcom Golden Girls, Golden Gals lacks a point of view and swings uneasily between tones. One moment, it’s pure, over-the-top camp and broad comedy. The next, it’s a deeply serious drama overloaded with more earnest plot points than a month’s worth of Very Special Episodes.
The Golden Gals Live!
Through 2/12: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 2:30 and 7:30 PM, Sun 2:30 PM, Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport, 773-360-7365, mercurytheaterchicago.com, $39-$75
Following the character template of the original, the titular gals include Minj as the boisterously sex-positive Blanche; Divine Grace as the acerbic, formidable Dorothy; Gidget Galore as the dimly sweet Rose and MR MS Adrien as Dorothy’s spitfire mother, Sophia. Jason Richards plays four supporting roles, most of his heavy lifting done by bad wigs.
The rambling, overstuffed plot is weirdly retro, and not in a good, nostalgic way: a coming out storyline relies heavily on the tired joke where somebody repeatedly confuses being a lesbian with being Lebanese. An ex-husband’s groping handsiness is played for laughs. Far too much stage time is devoted to a tired catfight between Blanche and Sophia as they vigorously attempt to get the same unimpressive dude in bed.
Joshua Eads (aka Minj’s government name) is credited with both directing the production and writing the script, which runs roughly two hours, although laborious scene changes for the one-set show make it feel like longer. There’s enough solid comedy here for a Drag Race acting challenge, which generally runs a few minutes.
Minj looks gorgeous as Blanche and the Mercury Bar is a captivating place to hang out. And really, Golden Gals only needs two things to elevate: a new script and comic timing. For those Minj fans longing for new material (and still waiting for the release of her long-delayed LP Clown Fucker), Golden Gals offers little to applaud.