CBS’ The Nanny ran through much of the 1990s. The six-season sitcom had over 140 episodes. A series with that kind of longevity creates an emotional spot in the pop culture consciousness that presents itself in interesting ways. This weekend, Purse String Productions presents a live parody of the series for the small stage of Sunstone Studios. It’s a TV sitcom living and breathing in a space that is simultaneously more. and less intimate than a domestic living room somewhere in the midst of the Bill Clinton era.
It’s a live sitcom...with a twist. The show plays like a fusion between sketch comedy and a drag show. Everyone in the show gets an opportunity onstage alone in drag-style lip-synching in a plot that draws a little bit from a few different episodes of the series including the pilot. In all the show is 90 minutes long, but with the musical numbers there’s actually more like...a couple of episodes’ worth of comedy and some rather well-choreographed extended musical moments.
To her credit, Samantha Sostarich doesn’t go for an overly grating spoof of the iconic Fran Drescher in the role of the nanny named Fran. Anyone looking to do an impression of Drescher will tend to crank-up the grating intensity of the voice. Sostarich takes an approach that embraces the distinctive nasal quirks of Drescher’s Queens-based New York accent. Sostarich is a lot of fun alone onstage in character in a nightclub with a Britney Spears song.
The male lead of Mr. Sheffield is played by Lee Rydzewski, who has been performing primarily as a drag queen. This is his first time performing as a man in over a decade. There’s a clever and clean precision to Lee Rydzewski’s performance that serves the comedy well. Rydzewski’s feels kind of like...meta-drag. He’s usually onstage in drag, so being onstage as a man means is more of a drag for HIM as he’s not usually playing a man. His song comes at the end of the show and plays cleverly on the expectations an audience is going to have for a performer like him. It’s a fun moment.
Brandon Herr plays Mr. Sheffield’s business partner C.C. Babcock. There’s a very engaging and emotionally sharp energy about her that takes some of the edge off of the nastiness of the character.
Parker Cristan applies a very crisp presence to the role of the butler Niles. His charm suits the role well in a way that adds considerably to the ensemble dynamic of the show.
Ceci Rodriguez is great fun in the role of the title character’s best friend from way back. Rodriguez has got remarkably striking comic timing and energy that works well with Samantha Sostarich’s endearing presence.
Corey Richards is an audience favorite in drag as Fran’s mother Sylvia. There’s a charming friction between her Richards and Sostarich as mother and daughter that fits the tone of the sitcom perfectly.
Purse String Productions’ The Nanny: A Fine Parody runs through July 16th at Sunstone Studios on 127 E Wells Street. For more information visit Purse Strings Online.