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For over twelve years the Dumpsta Players have been producing the best satire and commentary on pop culture and modern society with only costumes and props sometimes dragged literally from the dumpster. This lipsync-drag-cabaret theatre group is one of Philadelphia’s coolest secrets, they should really be getting press and acclaim. Here’s my two cents worth.
With any Dumpstas show there is one rule – nothing is sacred, and the corollary is to expect the unexpected. And that’s the way it’s been for over a decade, and continues this past Wednesday with their latest show “Golden Girls Gone Wild.”
Arriving early for a Dumpsta show is akin to those crazy old movies about Hollywood where a walk between studios one is witness to cowboys, chorus girls and cartoons. This is the atmosphere as a Dumpsta show is prepped in the last minutes before showtime. There were Golden Girls scurrying about as disco, both and old and new school, pumped through the bar’s speakers. Of course, there were a few oddities thrown in like Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts” and the “What’s Happening” TV theme. This is the Dumpstas after all.
After surviving a few liquor board inspections the staging area of Bob and Barbara’s (Dumpsta home field) is a bit different, but it gives ample room to strut and perform. And all drag queens (and kings) need room for that, and bottom line, biting sarcasm and political and pop culture satire aside, the Dumpstas are a one-of-a-kind drag show at their core.
Ricky Paul, the founder and driving force behind the group for well over a decade walks purposefully through the bar, saying hi to friends and patrons, but is hardcore in making sure all is ready for the 11 PM sharp showtime. While Ricky is always on top of the production, the shows are also always a team effort. From the oldest to the newest members of the troupe, to folks not in this particular show to even those who are sick or recovering from illness, all are on hand to make sure the show goes on without a hitch.
Tonight’s show are songs and sketches loosely connected by the premise of the Golden Girls on reality television, just a taste of what Dumpsta-mania is all about. Using actual sound bytes from the “Golden Girls” TV series, to get a new roof, the ladies hit the reality shows to raise money. The GG drag is priceless, and John Donges’ deep voiced Bea Arthur/Dorothy brought down the house. So funny I peed just a little bit.
When Dorothy goes on “The Biggest Loser” to Weird Al’s “Fat” I was losing it. I have officially seen enough butt crack to last a lifetime. Next Rose/Betty White, played by Carl Swansen, appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” as Heather Mills’ partner. Heather, Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, was played by a mannequin whose leg, um, well, you get the picture. As I said, nothing is sacred. This segment featured some amazing disco dancing by Ricky Paul as Steve Guttenberg and Jennifer Walker (nepotism is not dead) as Rula Lenska to “Shake Your Groove Thing.”
Choreography is a major part of any Dumpsta performance. Oh sure, you can say these shows are all just lipsync, but you can’t deny the incredible choreography involved. It is the troupe’s forte in many scenes on stage, and Blanche/Rue McClanahan (Lance Pawling) vs New York on “Charm School” is no exception. Great writing, acting and dancing here, and Shannon Wilkes as New York is terrific, and that’s not even mentioning Macy Gray’s “Slap a Bitch” or the fake vagina. Yep, you read that right, fake vagina.
Repeat after me: nothing is sacred, and expect the unexpected. And when Sophia/Estelle Getty, played by Dan Meyer, starts to strip on “America’s Top Model” (also hosted by New York) it’s madness. But it earns a check from Bret Michaels (Cathy Heard) of “Rock of Love” and everyone lives happily ever after to Warrant’s “Cherry Pie.”