Varla Jean Merman: Exclusive Interview!
Varla Jean Merman is a lucky guy -- I mean Varla Jean Merman is starring in Lucky Guy.
It's an old-style camp musical with Varla and Leslie Jordan (above), dealing with people who put the trash back in Nashville dreams.
Varla, by the way, is the well-known drag character of Jeffrey Roberson, who kindly put Varla on the phone with me yesterday.
Me: Hi, Varla. Why have you been away from NYC for so long?
Varla: I fled after the Trade towers. I live on John Street and had flown out of Newark to London that morning, then I went home to New Orleans and ... Katrina!
Me: Yikes. Speaking of bad luck, will this show break the curse of the Little Shubert Theater, which is generally the home to bombs like Viagra Falls and Dracula?
Varla: Well, it couldn't get any worse. It's really funny!
Me: Is it basically a country version of A Star Is Born?
Varla: It is. But I'm the one that drowns myself -- in my own tears. You know, Michael, when we first met each other, I was an ingénue, and now I'm a cougar! I don't know how that happened! I play Miss Jeannie Jeannine, who's the queen of country music, and had only one hit, so I keep singing it. Sometimes at my concerts, I'll sing it three times! I'm desperate for anything to stay on top. This kid has written a hit song and it's up for me to steal the song. Leslie Jordan and I basically play a country version of Boris and Natasha.
Me: Would Bin Laden have liked this show?
Varla: I haven't even considered that, but why not? There's a lot to look at.
Me Yeah, a lot of virgins!
Varla: Well, there's one. [Laughs.] I do come out of the floor in a lift in a dream of mine. Actually, two lifts. William Ivey Long did the costumes. I have 10 changes. Some require fiberglass bases.
Me: Is it tiring to make all those changes?
Varla: Not when they look that good! Oddly enough, I bled onstage three times last night. I had big jewelry on and I kept hitting myself in face with it. People were staring at me. I lifted my hand up and blood was trickling down. But we worked it out. You work out the scabs in previews!