It’s a tale that only The City could give birth to: Four envelope-pushing drag queens morph into television’s most celebrated characters, “The Golden Girls,” become a huge stage hit and suddenly need more spotlights — literally.
Pass the cheesecake.
“The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes” is back. But thanks to high demand, the well-known quartet is changing venues. Out: the living room parlor setting. In: the Victoria Theatre, where the show opens, beginning Thursday with a benefit for Project Open Hand — for each ticket sold for opening night, a $5 donation will be made to the nonprofit organization.
“I like doing this in San Francisco because there is something so surreal about these four drag queens playing these characters,” says Heklina of the show’s evolution. The drag performer vividly takes on the role of sarcastic Dorothy, originally brought to life by the late Bea Arthur in the series.
Cookie Dough (Sophia), Matthew Martin (Blanche) and Pollo Del Mar (Rose) are the other “girls.” Manuel Caneri and Laurie Bushman co-star.
In addition to the new digs, the show itself is rebooted. The series, which ran seven seasons, only boasted two holiday episodes. After years of performing them — with a drag twist, of course — the “girls” opted to toss a little Christmas into two regular episodes, “Isn’t it Romantic” and “Sister of the Bride.”
“Romantic” finds Dorothy’s lesbian friend, Jean, falling for the naïve Rose during a holiday visit. “Sister” spotlight’s Blanche’s gay brother planning to marry his boyfriend Doug.
Fans may want to alert their clans: The show is family-friendly, even with its drag elements.
About the origins of this distinctly original assembly of wigs, dresses and sitcom banter under the drag umbrella, Heklina says it all “happened organically and became a tradition.”
But even she was surprised by how well it took off.
“The show is comforting to me,” Heklina says. “Whenever I get ready for a show — and not just ‘Golden Girls’ — I watch the DVDs in the background. I don’t know why, but it has a lot of comfort for me. A lot of people say the same thing, that all the characters are likeable. But the show itself was well-written, funny and ahead of its time. It explored issues that people now take for granted. It was tackling AIDS, abortion, teenage pregnancy — all that stuff way back in the ’80s. Which doesn’t seem so long ago, but it was.
“You just sort of wish you were there in the kitchen having cheesecake with the girls,” she says, chuckling.
IF YOU GO
The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes
Where: Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; closes Dec. 23
Tickets: $25 to $30
Contact: www.ticketfly.com/venue/2161; www.trannyshack.com