Saturday, August 29, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Beatrice Arthur: Astral Dame at The Laurie Beechman Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Beatrice Arthur: Astral Dame at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Beatrice Arthur: Astral Dame
Performed by Jason B. Schmidt
Director: Amy Anders Corcoran
Music Director: Mason Griffin
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Reviewed 8/26/15 

Jason B. Schmidt, who has been impersonating Beatrice Arthur since 2010, is a New York City-based actor, voice over talent and one-half of The Parodivas, a musical comedy group. He played Dorothea in the Golden Girls parody, Thank You For Being A Friend: The Musical. In Beatrice Arthur: Astral Dame, Bea comes back from heaven as an Astral Dame to perform one last show for her fans. Her Astral Stage Manager, Jimmy Durante, has given her the following very sage advice, "Make them laugh. Make them cry. And then Get The Hell Out Of Dodge." Bea Arthur has legions of fans out there, who love her for her work in the theater, and for her roles in movies and on television. People admired the 5'10" Tony and Emmy Award-winning star of Maude, Mame, and The Golden Girls for her brassy, outspoken personality. Everyone knew that Bea Arthur wasn't the kind of woman who would take crap from anyone! (Little known fact: Bea Arthur worked as a truck driver and typist in the United States Marine Corps during World War II receiving an Honorable Discharge in September 1945) It is a pent-up desire to see her again that is filling the seats of this audience-pleasing show.

The creative minds behind Beatrice Arthur: Astral Dame know how to throw "red meat" at Bea's devoted fans. Jason B. Schmidt opens with a medley of The Man In The Moon and Thank You For Being A Friend. Channeling her spirit, Mr. Schmidt then sings a parody of "Let's Get This (Dinner) Party Started," "What'll I Do," and the full Maude television theme, sung intentionally with many dropped lyrics. There are a few jokes in this light-hearted show, none of which brought down the house. She had a dating game skit looking for "single sisters of Dorothy" and lamented that after "working a hundred years," she "ends up doing Dinner Theater." Finally, audio clips from the Golden Girls television show were played where our Bea Arthur impersonator spoke the punch lines that had been edited out. So Dorothy said, "All we have in common is under the sheets." Rose then asks, "what's under the sheets", to which Jason B. Schmidt, as Dorothy, says, "His Cappuccino Maker, Rose!" In another clip, Dorothy relays a story about how she drank champagne but later discovered she had swallowed her engagement ring which turned up two days later. Rose asks, "Where did it turn up?" to which Schmidt, as Dorothy, responds, "On the Home Shopping Network, Rose!" 

The worst skit in the show was when she was allegedly reading quotations from Justin Bieber's memoirs and the most entertaining piece was when she was interacting with an Uncle Arthur (from Bewitched) hand puppet. The hand puppet told two Paul Lynde-style jokes. The first being, "Beauty is only skin deep. But ugly is all the way to the bone!" and "I have very little to say about sex except Yes and Where?" The star of the show was special guest Sutton Lee Seymour (Prescott Seymour), who did the Bosom Buddies duet with Bea Arthur with some changed lyrics (SS: How old are you really? BA: I don't know. SS: Well, how long have you been dead?) During a costume change, Sutton Lee Seymour performed Don't Tell Mama dancing and singing her way into the hearts of the audience. The crowd went wild, which revealed a stark contrast between the electrifying performance of Sutton Lee and the mildly entertaining, relatively mediocre numbers and skits brought to the stage by our impersonator. Sutton Lee Seymour is a charismatic performer with a great stage presence and tremendous energy. Be on the lookout for her! 

In an interview given to Mark Dommu of Next Magazine (published on July 10, 2015), Jason B. Schmidt said this regarding his Bea Arthur impersonation, "She and I aren't really that different. It's just sort of Jason in a wig and then I have to change a couple of vowels - it's not that much of a stretch." In that short quotation, Jason clearly explained what is wrong with this show. He did not do extensive research into Bea Arthur's career, he probably never read or saw her interviews, he spent little time trying to get her intonations and hand gestures down pat (although the wigs and gowns were on target), there is very little biographical information about her in the show and the skits aren't particularly funny. It is simply not a well-researched or well-written show. Still, I have no doubt Bea Arthur fans left the show having enjoyed what they just saw. However, as a critic, I have much higher standards. For more information, visit 

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