“The Legend of Georgia McBride”
For a fabulous, feel-good evening of theatre, I doubt that you could do better than to attend TheaterWorks’ sparklingly funny production of “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” As written by Matthew Lopez, this play explores the story of a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator (Austin Thomas) who, through a series of events, becomes a full-out drag performer.
Though the play’s premise might sound frivolous, “The Legend of Georgia McBride” offers about equal amounts of dazzle and humanity and is much more than skin-deep. Rob Ruggiero has done a marvelous job directing this show and he has a terrific cast, who manages to bring out the very best in this play. “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at TheaterWorks is sensational fun and, thus, ranks as something of a must-see.
The play begins with the leading character, Casey, who has a wife at home and back rent to pay, trying to make a living as an Elvis impersonator at a club and not seeming to get anywhere. Without giving too much more of the plot away, it is actually the arrival of drag queen Miss Tracy Mills (the wonderful Jamison Stern), the cousin of the club’s owner Eddie (the solid J. Tucker Smith), who changes Casey’s fortunes forever. Almost against his will, Casey is transformed into a drag entertainer of the highest order and, more importantly, a performer who can make a lot of money.
To reveal any more of the play’s story would be unthinkable, simply because this is most definitely a show that has more than a few surprises up its sleeve. As Casey, Austin Thomas is excellent and is quite persuasive in embracing both the male and female sides of his personality. Thomas is also quite touching in the scenes with his wife, Jo, played by the adorable and endearing Samaria Nixon-Fleming, where one can see Casey trying to be the best possible husband that he can. It is the fact that “The Legend of Georgia McBride” is rooted in compassion for its characters that makes this play much more than just a drag show.
Not that there is anything wrong with a drag show, especially one that is as fantastic and entertaining as the one offered here. The majority of the play is made up of a series of drag performances, with the actors made up in gorgeous costumes (courtesy of Leon Dobkowski) and glorious wigs (designed by the peerless Mark Adam Rampmeyer), lip-synching to both country and dance hits.
In addition to Thomas ruling the stage in his drag queen “Georgia McBride” persona, there is also the hilarious Nik Alexander, who scores both as devious drag performer, Rexy, as well as Casey and Jo’s sympathetic landlord, Jason. Outshining all, however, is Jamison Stern as Miss Tracy Mills. Stern acts as a mentor, of sorts, to Thomas, but he is truly at his best out in the spotlight, glittering in the most fabulous outfits imaginable and lip-synching to both song classics and, in the show’s highlight, various sound-bytes of dialogue from iconic movie soundtracks.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” is a stunning show to watch, with ideal set design by Paul Tate dePoo III and some scintillating choreography by Ralph Perkins. Lighting designer John Lasiter has really outdone himself here and Ed Chapman deserves a big shot out for his expert sound design. Director Rob Ruggiero works as strongly with his designers as he does with his cast and this show is truly a winner.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” also delineates the arc that its leading character Casey goes through and one really roots for the people in this play, both onstage and off. And while this show may appeal most to fans of drag performances (which I most definitely am), there is so much delirious fun and entertainment in this show, as well as genuine feeling for its multi-layered characters, that “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at TheaterWorks can be recommended to just about anyone. Just throw caution to the wind and have a good time.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” continues performances at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through April 29, 2018. For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.
Photo: (L-R): Jamison Stern and Austin Thomas
Photo by Lanny Nagler