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!
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.