Everyone’s favorite geriatric BFFs are coming to Union Square this fall, just not quite as you remember them.
Director Jonathan Rockefeller is re-creating “The Golden Girls” using puppets — again. After the huge success of his first “Golden” puppet production, “Thank You for Being a Friend,” he’s created a whole new story called That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody.
“That was more stand-up comedy, really, but this production morphed out of that,” he says during a break in rehearsals at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square. “We’ve complete re-created their apartment in Miami. We’ve got wicker furniture, plastic plants and Florida ceramics. We’re completely embracing the fabulousness of 1980s Miami.”
But puppets? Really? “Using puppets, we create a love letter to these characters, as opposed to having actors dressing up and pretending to be them,” says Rockefeller, an Australian by birth who has lived in the city for three years. “A lot of adults grew up with ‘The Muppets’ and ‘Sesame Street’ and they’re used to puppet shows with an adult sense of humor.”
And there’s plenty of that: Those aging ladies who rocked the shoulder pads were quite risqué. “They got away with a lot more than characters in other shows could, probably because it was these harmless old ladies.”
The puppets were created by New York City-based freelance illustrator and concept artist Joel Gennari, and the cast includes Arlee Chadwick as Rose, Cat Greenfield as Blanche, Weston Chandler Long as Dorothy and Emmanuelle Zeesman as Sophia.
“It’s 31 years ago next week that the series first aired,” says Rockefeller. “So many generations now love that show— it’s the humor and also it was so ahead of its time.”
It also broached the idea of old people as still being full of life, as these four seniors lived together and led active, social lives instead of sitting in a nursing home, among other overlooked or taboo topics. “They were talking about gay marriage in 1985; they were talking about artificial insemination; and all about cheesecake. It helped shape the national psyche.”
Still, for all its social or artistic mores, “That Golden Girls Show!” is quite straightforward. “This is a megamix of the entire seven years it ran, boiled down into a 90-minute show. It’s ‘The Golden Girls’ with puppets,” says Rockefeller. “There’s no other explanation required.”
That Golden Girls Show! A Puppet Parody
Sept. 19-Dec. 11
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 E. 15th St.