As ‘Fierce’ as they come

“Mildred Fierce” is anything but a drag. Olive Another, third from left, and Varla Jean Merman, fourth from left, are especially brilliant.
“Mildred Fierce” is anything but a drag. Olive Another, third from left, and Varla Jean Merman, fourth from left, are especially brilliant. Photo: Michael von Redlich

Varla Jean Merman makes everything more fun. Even the always glittery Gold Dust Orphans seem to sparkle a bit more when the legendary drag performer joins their party.

The statuesque leading ‘lady’ brings much more than a big pair of pumps to Ryan Landry’s latest farce, “Mildred Fierce.” By playing it straight, (OK, by playing it serious), Merman, whose alter-ego is performance artist Jeffery Roberson, delivers impeccably-timed belly laughs in this pulp noir parody of the 1945 Joan Crawford film “Mildred Pierce.” Ever the triple threat, Merman also reminds us she can sing, dance and make musical magic with a can of Cheez Whiz.

While Landry remains faithful to the Academy Award-winning film he lampoons, he still manages to take it too far in all the right places (like naming a restaurant Mildred’s Pie Hole). The result is a gender-bending, tap-dancing, musical extravaganza that is definitely, and thankfully, not wholesome family fare.

The Orphan mainstays are all in attendance. Penny Champayne is a nasty delight as Mildred’s evil daughter Veda. Olive Another is hilarious as Mildred’s friend Ida. Doing double-duty as choreographer and ethically-challenged businessman Wally, Delta Miles delivers his (or is it her?) finest performance to date.

Aside from being the comic brains behind the entire production, Landry also makes a cameo as an uptight elder and a riotous turn as daffy domestic Butterball. Chris Loftus, as always, plays the straight man while Brooks Brasselman gives a dubious orientation to two-timing sleaze Monty Brigadoon.

Amelia Gossett and Lauren Duffy have created one of the best Orphan sets ever and Scott Martino’s outrageous costumes highlight Mildred’s biggest assets. But it’s director James P. Byrne who, somehow, makes it all look effortless.

If you go:

‘Mildred Fierce’
Through March 17
Club Machine
1254 Boylston St., Boston
$40-$50, 800-838-3006
www.brownpapertickets.com/



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