Onstage / Preview of GOLDEN GIRLS and PRESCRIPTION MURDER
It must be December - holiday shows abound
Photo by Stephen Gabris
Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Holiday Edition
at Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley (alleyway.com, 716-852-2600)
Everyone’s favorite snowbirds fly north for the holiday in this drag parody of the award-winning television situation comedy that ran from 1985 to 1992.
Audiences join Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia on their search for seasonal magic. Director Todd Warfield, Buffalo’s de facto director of camp, handpicked actors for the roles.
“In particular, working with Mike Blasdell [Blanche] and Joey Bucheker [Rose] is a gift because their heightened drag aesthetic takes our show to the next level,” Warfield says. “Actors Jessica Rasp [Sofia] and Guy Tomassi [Dorothy] go back to my Buffalo State Casting Hall days. Jessica and I have collaborated on numerous productions technically and I’m excited at my first chance to direct her.”
Aside from the fab four, Tim Goehrig plays several roles in the show, including Santa Claus. A. Peter Snodgrass, who’s appeared in the Buffalo United Artists productions of Sons & Lovers and BUA Takes 10: Stonewall Edition, also takes on an array of characters, including Rose’s blind sister and Blanche’s hunky aerobics instructor.
Warfield first saw the show in Chicago, starring its playwright, David Cerda, who also wrote Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical, which Warfield directed for BUA in 2014. “I screamed when I saw this show and knew from that moment that we should share with Western New York audiences,” he says.
Also a costumer, Warfield has been making liberal use of late drag Empress Vicky Vogue’s wardrobe donation—twenty-nine plastic totes of clothes. “Each character has her own particular style from Blanche’s plunging necklines to Dorothy’s flowing robes,” he says. “It’s all about 1980s prints, shoulder pads, and drop waists.”
Warfield will strive to keep the spirit of the original sitcom while heightening the comedy to camp level. “When I was in Hollywood, I liked that the three-camera television sitcom is most similar to live theater because of the reactions of the studio audience,” he says. “Golden Girls wrote the textbook on comedic timing, particularly in the writing of Sophia. So many of today’s sitcoms are built on the comedy formulas created for Golden Girls. The hardest part of this production was not being able to cast so many other local actors who wanted a part!”
Across the hall, Alleyway will also be presenting its traditional holiday mainstay A Christmas Carol and hopes theatergoers will take the time to see both. “There is a need for comedic holiday programming in addition to the classics,” says Warfield. “Holidays have become less about gifts and more about experiences together. I think audiences will flock to see our girls and then maybe also come back for A Christmas Carol.”
Prescription Murder: Columbo
1) SYNOPSIS: A brilliant New York psychiatrist hatches a foolproof plot to kill his wealthy wife with the help of his mistress. Lieutenant Colombo and the doctor engage in a cat-and-mouse duel of wits as Colombo whittles away at the doctor’s so-called perfect murder.
2) Though the play preceded the TV series, it did not inspire it. Columbo first appeared as a character in “Enough Rope,” a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show anthology series; that episode was adapted by Richard Levinson and William Link from their short story “May I Come In?”; the Columbo character was added, but noteworthy, in the adaptation. Two years later, the writing duo’s stage version of that episode—Prescription: Murder—made its debut. Six years after that, the play was made into a TV movie-of-the-week that prompted a request for a film pilot. Finally, in 1971, Columbo joined McCloud and McMillan and Wife as part of the rotating whodunit shows on the NBC Mystery Movie wheel series.
3) Bert Freed played the first Columbo, followed by Oscar-winning Thomas Mitchell in the stage play. When it came time for the film, both Lee J. Cobb and first-choice Bing Crosby turned down the role, before the younger Peter Falk was hired, after allegedly telling Link he “would kill to play that cop.” Falk won four Emmys for his portrayal.
4) Columbo’s trademark trenchcoat came from Peter Falk’s own closet.
5) As memorable a character as Columbo still remains, actor Peter Falk—who suffered dementia before his 2011 death—could no longer remember playing the character, nor could he identify the character at all, according to his doctor.
6) WHAT THEY SAID: “The writing is sharp, clever and humorous (credit William Link and Richard L. Levinson) and mystery fans will love the surprise ending… The show itself has an overall TV feel to it. Credit the writers’ backgrounds… but in end there’s always Lieutenant Columbo. And he always gets what he’s after in the end: the truth.” - Harry Cherkinian, Shepherd Express, 2018