Saturday, August 11, 2012

Varla Jean Merman "Tops Herself" in PTown 2012 Summer Season at Art House

In the photo at the left, Varla Jean Merman beats on a tambourine, with her own surprised face on the front, during her hilarious show Topping Myself, at the Art House, at 214 Commercial Street. New for the 2012 summer season in Provincetown, the show features an elaborate array of props and costumes, for which Varla has become well-known over the years, but she definitely "tops herself" this year with a couple of gags and outfits that must have cost a pretty penny only to be used on-stage for literally just a few seconds of this wonderful, fast paced and highly entertaining show.
Jeffery Roberson's first PTown appearance as Varla Jean Merman, the illegitimate daughter of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman (who actually were married for about 10 minutes in the 1950s, weren't they?) was as an "opener" for Lypsinka at Town Hall in 1996. Roberson, at six feet, two inches, cuts a dashing and impressive figure himself, but when he ads a few more inches of hair and heels, Varla becomes truly statuesque, with a personality that is also larger than life.
After Varla's first appearance here, Roberson remarked on his genuine surprise that in Provincetown, of all places, he was mistaken for an actual woman by quite a number
of theater patrons.
The 1998 summer season marked the beginning of what would become several years of appearances at the Post Office Cabaret, each summer bringing a new show and another amazing array of costumes and props, to the delight of a steadily growing league of die-hard fans who would never miss a season's performance. Moving to the larger stage of the Art House in 2008, Varla is now accompanied on the piano by Gerald Goode, and she now has enough space to occasionally add another body or two to the stage, this year spoofing Miss Richfield 1981.
Varla has appeared from one end of the country to the other, including Carnegie Hall, and internationally as well, with performances in London and in Australia. She has been seen on television and in films both large and small, recently making a very funny cameo appearance in BearCity2, where in typical Varla fashion, she wedged herself into a number of scenes while other cameo actors got only seconds of screen time.
Upon the recent death of Ernest Borgnine, Varla responded to all her Facebook fans' concerns thusly: "Thank you all for your kind words. The loss of a parent is devastating, and my love for him was unrestrained. He was a quiet man, but his lawyers often conveyed his true feelings for me, and at least reassured me that he did know I was out there, especially when I came within 400 feet of him."
Make sure you don't miss Varla Jean Merman in Topping Myself. The show goes on at 9 PM nightly except Sundays, through September 1st. Get tickets online or at the box office, open every afternoon at 2 PM, inside the Art House Theater, at 214 Cimmercial Street. Be sure to go early to the show, and enjoy a number of videos of Varla compiled over the past 10 years, playing before each performance as patrons file into the theater. TheYearRounder chooses this show as this week's Hot Ticket.

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