Alaska Thunderf*ck

August 8, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

Alaska Thunderf*ck achieved stardom as a finalist on the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In Alaska & Jeremy: On Golden Girls, her show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, she proves that this is no fluke, but is based on solid, undeniable talent. Working with her accompanist (or more accurately her co-star), Handsome Jeremy, she gives us all things Golden. The title is not only a take-off on On Golden Pond, but also a totally accurate description of her show. The majority of the material, whether sung, spoken or (hilariously) visualized, actually appeared on the classic TV show. Early on, she warns the audience that those who are not legitimate fans of the show might not get every reference, and she thanks them for coming anyway.

While the impressions of the characters, and the actors who played them, might not always strike the right note, that is almost beside the point. Alaska’s passion for her subject, and her obvious love of the show, her unbridled zaniness, unstoppable energy, and sharp observations carry the day handily. The show is a smart, sleek, sly machine guaranteed to produce laughs and, sometimes, a wistful sense of loss that the show and most of its stars are not still around and that the show’s combination of intelligence, wit and heart is rarely on display on television in 2018.

An opening medley of variations on the sitcom’s theme, “Thank You for Being a Friend” (Andrew Gold)—first in a punk-ish, Weill-ish deconstruction, then in a straight ahead version, and finally in a gospel remix—reveals the smarts, the nerve, and the energy of the evening. Alaska is bedecked in a wig that is part Heidi, part Britt Ekland, and looks fabulous. With talk of witches, magic, channeling, and “the brown arts,” she disappears off stage again and again, to return as another of the famous foursome. It takes a while to channel the women, so the resourceful singer/pianist Jeremy plays songs done on the series, often as unforced sing-alongs. Highlights of the interludes include “Over There” (George M. Cohan) and “Mr. Sandman” (Pat Ballard), Even those who have no frame of reference for these numbers will be charmed by them. But for those, like me, who count the show among their favorites, the warmth and nostalgia they engender are palpable.

When Alaska takes the stage as each of the ladies, the energy and laughs go through the roof. Sophia (one of the funniest visuals of the evening) might be a bit more Joan Rivers than Estelle Getty, but the laughs are genuine as she croons “Thanks for the Medicaid.” Blanche is the most successful incarnation of the night, with her sexy dress, flamboyant wig, seductive drawl, and tart-with-a-heart demeanor. Rose is given her own theme with a rewritten version of Amanda McBroom’s “The Rose” that manages to be hilarious and ultimately moving. Rose’s turn also includes all of the ladies’ entries in the Miami Beach theme song contest—a reference that is worthy of a Google search for those not familiar with the episode. In this section, Alaska looks more like Kim Novak and sounds more like herself, but, again, the humor and love trounce any reservations. In a brilliant move, she has Dorothy sing the Alanis Morisette hit “You Oughta Know” (Morisette, Glen Ballard) at her ex-husband, Stan, and stops the show; then she continues on with Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” and “Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp of Savannah)” (Milton Ager, Jack Yellen, Bob Bigelow, Charles Bates) from the classic piano bar episode.

Alaska & Jeremy: On Golden Girls is fun from start to finish. I would go to see Alaska Thunderfu*k do anything; this show made me a fan for life.

Alaska & Jeremy: On Golden Girls
Laurie Beechman Theatre – August 1-5, 8, 9

Category: Reviews

About the Author ()

Gerry Geddes has conceived and directed a number of musical revues—including the Bistro- and MAC Award-winning Monday in the Dark with George and Put On Your Saturday Suit – Words & Music by Jimmy Webb—and directed many cabaret artists, including André De Shields, Helen Baldassare, Darius de Haas, and drag artist Julia Van Cartier. He directs The David Drumgold Variety Show, currently in residence at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, and has produced a number of recordings, including two Bistro-winning CDs. He's taught vocal performance at The New School, NYU, and London's Goldsmith's College and continues to conduct private workshops and master classes. As a writer and critic, he has covered New York's performing arts scene for over 40 years in both local and national publications; his lyrics have been sung by several cabaret and recording artists. Gerry is currently completing a memoir about his life in the city.

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