Varla Jean Merman at The Palm Cabaret 2020 AKA Jeffery Roberson returns to the stage here tonight for only the second season. A busy crowd gathered, obviously her followers from the USA and beyond. Chi Chi Rones entered introducing her currently running hysterical show Dueling Drag Divas with Jo Anna and then gave everyone a terrific glimpse into one part of the contest with the two ladies vying for audience support for impressions and songs of lady icons. She sang a perfect “No Regrets”, in French “Non, je ne regrette rien”. She held the last ultra-high note so long people started clapping and standing before she had finished. Her words are packed with thoughtful suggestions on continuing with one’s life after setbacks.
The two side video screens were used widely tonight. First was an introduction and look at this star who was about to entertain the crowd. With Varla, there is always ample humor. The book she was reading was entitled Tequila Mockingbird and the story progressed to “Tequila makes her clothes fall off.”. “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, with quite a number of lyric changes in which she is known to excel professed her life’s attitude. The relevant message is: I am who I am and am going to stay this way. Gerald accompanies her antics with skill on the piano. She is such a superstar that she has her own maid who serves as her assistant, bringing drinks, props and carries off costumes no longer needed so that they do not get tossed onto the floor.
Varla knows her trade and is celebrating thirty years in the theatrical business. She is a Broadway theater star with many guest appearances on television and in film and regularly fills cabarets and concert halls. She revealed that Coco Peru, who also performs here seasonally, gave her pointers early in her career including helpful contacts and advice. She helped steer Varla in the right direction, pointing toward success. She proclaims she is a star but not an actress. She is a ‘re-actress’, meaning her inner being reacts to situations although not acting.
Varla quoted Dylan Thomas in her narrative about aging: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at the close of day.” She enthralls her audiences into nearly nonstop laughter. “I thought getting old would take a longer time.” “I AM big. It’s the costumes that have gotten smaller.” She bounced into a rewritten “Material Girl’ from Madonna. The words were hysterical and conjured tickling images. Possibly even Reba McEntire would giggle at the remake of her “Fancy” becoming “Here’s your one chance Varla don’t let me down”. From this smooth professional performance which ignited the audience, it appears that Varla did not let her down.
She returned to her guiding lady Coco saying “She made me part of what I became”. In turn, on the screens, Varla featured snapshots of many drag queens who have been influences on all one another throughout the years dating back to the iconic Charles Pierce. Modestly, she said “I am a small link in that legendary chain.
“One more?” To send everyone along their happy way, Varla portrayed the Hunchback of Notre Dame, marvelously changing characters often with a dull gray shawl over the head and a gnarly mouthpiece. Varla knows exactly how to draw the crowd into her show and entertain them. She is at the top of her profession.