Annie Golden plays a mute on “Orange Is the New Black,” but over a recent lunch, the show’s Norma Romano is a regular chatterbox. How, after a breathless talking tour through her childhood, punk-rock days, Broadway nights and post-“Orange” fame, does this 67-year-old have the energy to star in “Broadway Bounty Hunter”?
Then again, the role has her name on it. She plays . . . Annie Golden, an actress of a certain age and scant opportunities, who ends up tracking down a drug lord in Ecuador. Composer Joe Iconis says the plot’s fictitious, but Golden’s character is the real deal.
“She’s the most no-bulls - - t person I ever met,” says Iconis, who grew up listening to her on the cast albums of “Assassins” and “Hair.” More than a dozen years ago, he wrote a part for her in his NYU thesis, “The Black Suits.” Golden heard about it, did a reading and played it on the road.
“There’s nobody like her,” says the 37-year-old, who nevertheless retooled the “Broadway Bounty Hunter” script slightly for Anne L. Nathan to perform on Saturday matinees. “Annie’s the most New York creature who ever lived!”
Born in Greenpoint, raised in Park Slope and living in Coney Island, Golden is the oldest of six children whose father sang and whose mother, a roller-derby champ, died at 42. College and singing lessons were out (she still can’t read music), so a young Golden worked as a secretary by day and went clubbing at night. A band heard her singing along to a jukebox and invited her onstage, and before long, she was singing lead for the Shirts.
“It was me and five guys,” says the strawberry blonde, who used to wear her hair in a David Bowie-esque mullet. “I’d put my makeup on in bathrooms with no doors on the stalls and graffiti on the mirrors . . . then Miloš Forman came and changed my life.”
The Czech-American film director was casting 1979’s “Hair” when he dropped into CBGB, heard the Shirts and asked Golden to audition. It didn’t start well. “They asked me to sing ‘Air,’ and I totally shot myself in the foot,” she says of the ditty that starts, “Welcome, sulfur dioxide.” When she told Forman she didn’t like that song, he asked her to sing something else before casting her as Jeannie, the sweetly pregnant flower child.
Golden re-created the role in two revivals and performed in several other Broadway shows, “The Full Monty” and “Assassins” among them, temping in between. It wasn’t until 2013, when “Orange” swept her up in its killer ensemble, that she finally quit her day jobs.
It seems odd to cast a singer as a mute, but Golden says creator Jenji Kohan knew what she was doing. “Norma can speak, but she doesn’t want to,” Golden says. When we first hear Norma’s voice, raised in song during a Christmas pageant, it’s a wonderful, silvery surprise.
Golden says many of her co-stars didn’t even know she sang until Lea DeLaria played them some YouTube clips. “I’m just showing the young ones who the f - - k Norma Romano is,” the show’s Big Boo told her director.
What can we expect from the “Orange” farewell season, airing Friday? “It’s like a valentine to everyone,” Golden says. “The characters were dispersed in Season 6, and now we’ll see where they landed.”
She says that she, “a working-class Irish Catholic girl,” still can’t believe where she landed.
“If I didn’t come from where I did,” says Golden, mopping her plate with a piece of bread, “maybe I wouldn’t have seen this for the gift it is. Better be grateful, bitch!”
“Broadway Bounty Hunter” runs through Sept. 15 at the Greenwich House Theater.