Of any sitcom, past or present, Designing Women could be the most obvious choice for a live onstage drag queen reboot. Just ask Jackie Beat.
“Hmmm, let’s see, four feisty Southern women in hideously gorgeous late ’80s/early ’90s fashions and hairstyles? I mean, come on! Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker, Mary Jo Shively and Charlene Frazier are iconic!” So says the L.A.-based drag legend, renowned for her delightfully raunchy song parodies and one-woman shows. But Jackie Beat also loves treating audiences to witty reimaginings of their favorite sitcoms.
Beat regularly stars in drag adaptations of Golden Girls episodes, in which she plays Bea Arthur’s Dorothy Zbornak like no one else can. And earlier this year Beat and a group of L.A. rabble-rousers brought a raunchy musical version of family sitcom Who’s the Boss? to L.A. audiences — and with original series star Danny Pintauro in tow, no less.
Designing Women now gets the same treatment.
Dezigning Women (note the ‘z’) debuts tonight at L.A.‘s Cavern Club Theater, found below Casita Del Campo, a beloved Mexican restaurant in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood. (Is it weird that L.A. gays will be gathering 12 feet beneath banquettes of people scarfing down enchiladas and margaritas? Only for the uninitiated. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Cavern Club Theater is the city’s best venue for queer theater, its calendar packed year-round with the work of demented drag queens and other gay geniuses.
This drag-infused take on Designing Women, which ran from 1986–93 and followed the women of a fictional Atlanta design firm, stars Jackie Beat and Sherry Vine as Sugarbaker sisters Julia and Suzanne, played on TV by Dixie Carter and Delta Burke. Rounding out the cast are fellow queen Roz Drezfalez as Charlene, Daniele Gaither of MADtv as Mary Jo and comedian Selene Luna as Mary Jo’s teen daughter Claudia.
As if that weren’t enough, each evening of the show’s four-night run will feature a special guest you no doubt know and love. The episode of Designing Women being recreated for the stage is one called “The Beauty Contest,” most remembered for an iconic monologue by Dixie Carter called “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Playing the bitchy beauty queen who gets the brunt of that speech, Miss Georgia World 1986, will be Manila Luzon (Thursday), Alaska Thunderfuck (Friday), Bianca Del Rio (Saturday) and Candis Cayne (Sunday).
About the brilliant cast, Beat says, “I would call it an embarrassment of riches, but I think ‘an embarrassment of bitches’ is more appropriate.” Some fans are so excited by the special guest lineup they say they’ve purchased tickets to multiple nights.
For those who can’t quote Designing Women line by line, Jackie Beat insists that audience members need not be die-hard fans of the original series to be entertained — something that can be said for all of Beat’s beloved sitcom adaptations.
“When Katy Perry came to see us do The Golden Girlz Live she had the time of her life despite the fact that she — are you sitting? — had never seen a single episode!” Beat tells Hornet. “Remember, she grew up very religious and was not allowed to watch secular TV shows as a child. But the very next day she posted that she was binge-watching the original series. We are so proud that we got Katy Perry hooked on Dorothy, Blanche, Rose & Sophia!)”
Unlike Golden Girlz Live, which presents two full episodes of the original TV series without edits (hey, why fix something that ain’t broken?), similar to Who’s Da Boss Live Beat and her talented team have completely reworked it and have added musical numbers.
“It’s fucking filthy and beyond politically incorrect, so it’s pretty much designed to satisfy every audience member, whether they know the original series or not,” Beat says of this new stage show. “And when you add the fact that we get to actually play the amazing actresses playing the legendary characters, you get more layers than one of Delta Burke’s plus-sized outfits!”