Big Bosom Buddies, written and performed by Varla Jean Merman and Ricky Graham, would have been a hit in the deliciously decadent Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, things would have gotten grim for the drag queens when the Nazis took over.
Fortunately, the gender-bending cabaret comedy found a home in the Mid-City Theatre, and a packed house enjoyed the duo's racy monologues and songs.
Merman (Jeffery Roberson) and Graham have again teamed up to great effect. They have a way of pushing the limits of decency so far you can't quite remember what the concept means.
The show begins with an empty stage; Jefferson Turner, who wrote many of the tunes, is seated at a baby grand piano at the side of the stage. Merman and Graham enter in what might be called glitter-chic get-ups (by Cecile Casey Covert) and sing a duet about the joys and trials of being bosom buddies.
There were many songs, including revamped tunes and originals with witty lyrics by Merman and Graham. Monologues, skits and outrageous gags are interspersed throughout. For instance, a cellphone rings and Merman pulls hers from her cleavage. She can't operate the buttons with her gloves on, however, so instead she uses a frankfurter, which then provides a little snack. "Wink, wink, nudge, nudge," as the Monty Python troupe said when they made sexual innuendoes.
In the first act, stage manager Brian Johnston was pressed into service as a chicken for a number that satirized The Magic Flute. That was easy compared with his second-act cameo in a song about foreskins.
The potpourri of swirling nonsense featured Graham as a country and Western queen, and at another point, he was a diabolical nurse. As nuns, Graham and Merman reflected that "priests do more things than lay people."
Finally, we got a spoof of the silver screen. The 1962 film What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? was mauled with caricature versions of stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford locked in mortal combat.
The show was full of inventive good fun. The singing was spirited, and Merman, despite her clowning, clearly has some admirable pipes. Here's hoping Graham and Merman bring back this show or team up for a new one soon. — Dalt Wonk