Rose, Dorothy, Sophia and Blanche are coming to the stage … as puppets!
“That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody” features fuzzy re-creations of the beloved Miami foursome flinging zingers, devouring cheesecake and acting out scenes that will be delightfully familiar to fans of the long-running NBC sitcom, which wrapped in 1992 after seven seasons.
TODAY visited a rehearsal in New York City this week to chat with the puppeteers about bringing the ladies to life.
"I tend to go for the voice first, and that goes into my body,” explained Cat Greenfield, who channels Blanche’s sultry southern drawl. “And also watching the reaction GIFs of Blanche. My grandmother-in-law has a similar accent to Blanche's. So I think about, how would she carry herself if she were to say that, and how would my arm do that?"
"I always try to do a Bea Arthur-esque body movement," said Weston Chandler Long, who plays Dorothy.
Emmanuelle Zeesman (Sophia) practices emulating Estelle Getty in front of a mirror. “It's about the arms, and her stiffness and the voice,” she said.
Zeesman’s favorite Sophia line is her catchphrase “Picture it,” while Arlee Chadwick, who portrays Rose, is partial to the St. Olaf native’s memorable quote, “The older you get, the better you get, unless you're a banana."
The puppets, which bear an impressive likeness to the original characters, have already elicited some sweet reactions.
"I brought her home one day to practice lip-syncing in front of the mirror and my husband went 'Ohhhh!' and he needed to hug her," recalled Zeesman.
"It's amazing that people see these puppets and are immediately reminded of the actresses that originally played them,” observed Long. “People have come in and really been taken aback, having a moment of ‘They’re back together again.’”
Creator Jonathan Rockefeller debuted a previous version of the play called “Thank You for Being a Friend” in Sydney, Australia, three years ago. But while its former incarnation explored what “The Golden Girls” would be like in present day, this show is going back to its '80s roots — which he hopes will resonate with viewers.
“We want to give them an experience of what 'The Golden Girls' is like, and all of your best memories of 'The Golden Girls' in a funny, humorous way," Rockefeller said.
“This was a series where they could fight but it was always done with love,” Rockefeller added. “They could speak their minds, they could talk about things that were very taboo, but at the end of the day, they could all agree to disagree. And I think that is one of the things that makes the show so enduring to such a wide range of audiences.”
The puppeteers echoed this sentiment.
"The characters are so diverse in their personalities, so I really think there's something that everyone can identify with,” said Long. “They can find traits in each one of these characters that they can relate to, which just continues on as new people find the show."
Greenfield summed up the sitcom’s appeal with a statement Blanche would surely agree with: “It allows people of a certain age to remember that they still have a lot of vitality in them and they still have a lot going on and they’re still sexy and fun and date and have a life. Just because they’re in their golden years doesn’t mean they’re boring.”
Ultimately, said Zeesman, “The show is about friendship and love, and that’s forever."
"That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody" begins limited-run performances at Union Square’s DR2 Theatre on Sept. 19 and opens on Oct. 3.