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The Villages
Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Vicki Lawrence brings ornery ‘Mama’ to life at The Sharon

Villager Carolyn Bradley had a girls’ night out Wednesday with three buddies and two other gal pals named Vicki Lawrence and Mama.

“Vicki is the funniest girl, so tonight my friends and I decided to go out and have a good time with her and Mama,” Bradley said before Lawrence’s show at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.

“Mama always makes me laugh,” Bradley added. She bought tickets for three friends visiting from out of town – Carol Burak, Charlotte Adams and Linda Cherry.

Villager Caryolyn Bradley, second from right, came to see Mama with her friends, from left, Carol Burak, Charlotte Adams and Linda Cherry.

Their real fun came during “Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two Woman Show” before a packed house. Vicki and Mama got down to the nitty-gritty with some serious girl talk.

Subject matter included OB-GYNs, hair color, divorce, marriage, pregnancy and breast feeding. Just so the guys didn’t feel left out, Vicki and Mama talked about Cialis, tweets, spicy food, football players, tight ends and loose morals.

Vicki Lawrence on the lookout for Mama.

Mama was also goofing on William Shatner, the Kardashians, Dick Cheney and Kellyanne Conway.

This show, however, wasn’t about jokes — it was about conversation and personality. Whether it was grouchy, old Mama or the vibrant Vicki Lawrence, the honest character always comes through in real-life vocabulary.

Vicki Lawrence on stage at The Sharon.

Lawrence, 69, still has that girl-next-door appeal. She’s one of us. Like Carol Burnett, there is something homespun and real in Lawrence’s humor. Lawrence, like her mentor, has mastered the knack of talking to people, showing them a mirror image of themselves and sharing a good laugh while doing so.

Vicki and Mama also found time to sing some songs. Lawrence, wearing a blue jacket, black slacks and silver shoes, delivered her No. 1 pop hit from 1972,  “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.”

“That was written by my first husband (songwriter Bobby Russell),” Lawrence said, adding it was about the only good thing to come out of that brief marriage. She added that the record company wanted Liza Minnelli or Cher to sing the song.

“But I got it,” Lawrence said. “I sang it on ‘American Bandstand’ and Dick Clark gave me a gold record.”

Then Lawrence sang the theme to her syndicated television series, “Mama’s Family.”

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I wrote the lyrics,” Lawrence said. On the air, the theme is an instrumental, but during the show, Lawrence supplied the words and earned an ovation.

Mama looks ready for life in The Villages.

All this happened during the first 45 minutes of the show, with Vicki Lawrence as herself. She told the famous story of how Carol Burnett saw her picture in a newspaper story and picked her out to appear as Burnett’s sister on her TV variety show during the ‘60s.
Burnett then showed up at the “Miss Fireball” beauty contest, which Lawrence was competing in, and teenage Vicki got the TV job.

“The funny thing is, in high school I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore,” Lawrence said. But she cut her hair short, and “looked like Carol. To this day, I’m a natural redhead,” she said as the crowd roared with laughter.

Lawrence told how she met her second husband, Al Schultz, who was a make-up man on the Burnett show. “We’ve been married 44 years and have two kids,” she said.

“I know I’m getting old,” Lawrence said. “My kids got me a Snuggie for Christmas.”

Lawrence, 69, told about first playing Mama at the age of 24.  “They wanted Carol to do it, but she wanted to be Eunice.” Lawrence added the stories of Mama and her family was a “Southern thing, like Tennessee Williams on acid.”

During the second act, Lawrence morphed into Mama and the salty sparks were flying. Mama wore a baggy floral print dress with a pearl necklace and an orchid sweater to go with orthopedic socks and shoes. For old timers, she looked and sounded like a cross between Minnie Pearl and Charlie Weaver.

“I knew what you’re thinking (here is) 50 shades of gray,” Miss Mama told the crowd. Mama slowly wobbled back and forth on stage as she cackled out her stories.

Then came a culture shock. Mama turned into a booty-shaking rapper and flashed some street swag while howling such lyrics as “What’s up” and “Yo Mama.”

And when it was done, about all you could say was “rap on Mama, rap on.”

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