The Manic Mash-Up Returns
Ron Megee's 'Late Night Theatre' finds a new home.
It’s early afternoon at Missie B’s and decidedly quiet in the dimly lit bar. But on the other side of a soundproof pocket door, power tools buzz under bright stage lights in the cabaret-style theatre.
Director Ron Megee grabs one end of a couch as he and carpenter Chad Seaton put finishing touches on the set for “Golden Girls Gone Wild,” Late Night Theatre’s all-male send-up of the classic ‘80s TV show.
Last August, Late Night celebrated 17 years of gender-bending mash-ups of pop culture classics, including “Rosemarie’s Baby,” wherein “The Dick Van Dyke Show” merged with the Polanski horror classic “A Scarrie Carrie Christmas Carol,” blending Dickens with Stephen King, and spoofs of “Bonanza,” “Purple Rain” and “The Stepford Wives.”
From humble beginnings in the Westport Coffee House, to stints at The Unicorn Theatre, Hobbs Building and even the defunct Old Chelsea adult theatre, the company made its permanent home at 1531 Grand until closing in 2007.
But now they’re back and in a new home at Missie B’s, the popular drag bar and cabaret. Gone are the 11 p.m. shows that gave the company its name, but founder Megee welcomes the earlier shows and new digs.
“They gave us every night from 8 to 10, built us this 100-seat space and installed soundproof doors that open into the bar,” he says.
He’s clearly relieved to be free of the responsibility of running his own joint and is now able to focus on what he values most.
“It’s theatre with a twist,” he says. “This is ‘bar theatre,’ so people are drinking, using their phones. It’s pure escapism with music and jokes. We’re like off, off, off Broadway. We’re here to make you laugh.”
And it’s clearly working. The initial run of “Golden Girls Gone Wild” (with Megee playing the Bea Arthur role) sold out so fast the dates were set to restage it before the show even closed. July’s production of “The Dykes of Hazard,” featuring an all-female cast in a reimagining of the Southern-fried ‘70s TV show, packed the house. There was even a car chase, albeit in miniature, as a racetrack dropped from the ceiling and model cars executed the kind of crashes and stunts fans of the show would expect.
“It’s parody and camp,” says Megee. “We’re taking a subject that everyone knows and then we skewer it and twist it into a wild adventure. After all, it is guys (and girls) in drag.”
Audience members get even closer to the action for an extra $10 as “VIP Guests.” They are treated to front row seats, a shot of Crown Royale and in the case of “Golden Girls Gone Wild,” a slice of cheesecake. Every show also boasts a special guest, ranging from local actors, drag performers and occasionally celebrities from out of town. “Golden Girls” even welcomed the entire 18-member cast of “Hair” as guest stars on stage.
December will see “The Late Night Theatre Christmas Special Featuring Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston.” And in February things turn mysterious with “Remington Steele Magnolias” as the celebrated TV detective attempts to puzzle out who murdered Shelby.
Megee lays out these titles with a straight face (if that’s not camp, what is?) then adds that audience surveys are being taken to see what “Late Night” shows from the past will be revisited. Pressed to make a prediction, he guesses “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds,” then adds wistfully: “I was a good Tippi.”
Advance tickets for Late Night Theatre shows can be purchased through UMKC’s Central Ticket office. Missie B’s is located at the corner of 39th Street and Southwest Trafficway.
Mitch Brian teaches screenwriting and film studies at UMKC and appears with Jason Heck as THE DVD GURUS on KCUR’s “Up To Date” with Steve Kraske. Archived shows can be found at KCUR/UpToDate.org