Since the “Golden Girls” premiered nearly four decades ago, the four grandmothers sharing a house in Miami have earned a place in American pop culture. Reruns are a staple of TV Land and other cable networks and the show has inspired board games, breakfast cereal, “children’s” toys and more than a few stage adaptations.
In “That Golden Girls Show: A Puppet Parody,” coming to the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 19, the sassy seniors are reimagined as fuzzy “Sesame Street”- style puppets.
Unlike other shows that simply stage previously aired television episodes, this production features three brand-new stories, written especially for the tour. Ashley Brooke, the puppeteer who portrays Sophia, said audiences won’t be disappointed, though.
"All the zingers are there,” said Brooke, “but you’ve never seen the stories. It’s a cool concept with lots of little surprises.”
The show was an Off Broadway hit just a couple of years ago, fueled by the success of “Avenue Q,” an adult-themed take on “Sesame Street” with puppets and all. Producers decided the time was right to revive the show and take it on the road.
Brooke, an “Avenue Q” veteran who originally trained to be a puppeteer, joined the cast in August and is really getting settled into the role as the smart-talking Sophia.
“It’s very similar to ‘Avenue Q’ in the way the actor and puppet are married on the stage. They act like one unit and the audience sees both on stage throughout the show,” she explained. “The more [the cast] get to know each other as people behind the puppets, that camaraderie comes through in the show and we get stronger with time.”
A 31-year-old millennial, Brooke really doesn’t remember the original run of the show, but had caught a few episodes in syndication over the years.
“I had no idea what a cult following ‘Golden Girls’ has! People are fanatic … they show up dressed up as old ladies, ‘drag’ old ladies, wearing t-shirts. They yell out the one-liners before we get to them. They come with Girls Night Out parties, Boys Night Out, bachelorette parties,” she said. “They’re crazy.”
When asked why “Golden Girls” continues to appeal to audiences, the New York native said the magic was in the characters.
“I think it’s a show about good people,” she said. “Good people who are trying their best and always loving each other. It was really ahead of its time in dealing with issues like body positivity and feminism … and it’s just plain funny.”
"That Golden Girls Show: A Puppet Parody” will be performed on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m. in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $45 at BrowardCenter.org.