Sunday, May 07, 2006

Varla Jean, I'm not going to pay for this (Cleveland Public Theatre)

VARLA JEAN appears once again at CPT

For the fifth time, Varla Jean Merman is back at Cleveland Public Theatre, playing to her loyal fans. Her new show, ‘I’M NOT PAYING FOR THIS!’ centers on her exploring her moral code.

Originally, according to Varla Jean, she was going to use the ten commandments to develop the plot, but since she is lazy she chose instead, the 7 deadly sins as it required her to write three less songs. Along with the new musical material, there are new videos and, to the consternation of her regulars, she has eliminated her famous singing high notes while inhaling cheese whiz.

Varla Jean Merman, supposedly the love child of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman, is the creation of Jeffery Roberson. Roberson, a tall 200-pounder, came to New York from New Orleans in 1994 and immediately became a fixture in the Big Apple club scene. In 1995, he wrote and starred in ‘VARLA AND THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY.’ This production was her open door to national success. Since then she has toured the country, and has become a fixture in the gay meccas of San Francisco to Provincetown.

Her new movie, "’GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS,’ is a campy romp in which all the girls are played by men. The cast includes such legendary female impersonators as Jack Plotnick and Clinton Leupp, as well as Roberson.

In the CPT show, Roberson repeats most of Varla Jean’s usual shticks. She taunts the audience, plays up her “macho” size, sings songs with dirty lyrics and double entendres, and uses videos which often aren’t very funny. Even she admitted that the videos were “stupid and make no sense.” Roberson does have an excellent singing voice.

Her act appeals mainly to gays and lesbians, though there were straight couples in the audience.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you’ve seen Varla Jean before, you’ll be seeing much of the same in her new show. If you liked her in the past, you’ll like her again. If you haven’t seen her and are curious about this type of entertainment, she’s your ticket to being exposed.