There is nothing like a dame. Armed with an impervious stage presence, bawdy gay jokes and luscious anecdotes about Mae West and Tallulah Bankhead, Bea Arthur mostly thrilled her mostly gay male audience for And Then There’s Bea.
Punters of all sexual orientations will not be disappointed, except perhaps show queen Nazis of the most exacting order. Certainly, there could have been more tales of the Golden Girls and the reportedly torturous filming of Mame. With the possible exception of certain hits from Mame and Gypsy, Arthur’s songlist was also offbeat and sometimes off-Broadway. But Arthur was there to be herself and have fun, liberated in old age from those who once tried to boss her around because now they’re all dead. (She announced hilariously at the show’s end -“ with a reproachful stare worthy of Dorothy -“ that she would not sing I’m Still Here.)
Arthur’s voice is not as strong as it once was, and the onstage relationship between herself and pianist/composer Billy Goldenberg gently rocks between cute and corny. Given Arthur’s advanced years, however, the show is pretty amazing, a hit with an audience practised in embracing the adventures and experiences of older women.
And Then There’s Bea runs until 10 November at the Parade Theatre, Anzac Parade, Kensington. Phone 9266 4020 or visit www.sydney2002.org.au for bookings.