By Karen Isaacs
You will have a laugh-filled, delightful time at The Legend of Georgia McBride now at TheaterWorks through Sunday, April 29. This work by Matthew Lopez has flaws but it also provides a gigantic dose of pure entertainment.
Lopez is an established playwright who has created serious works such The Whipping Man and Reverberation which premiered at Hartford Stage. In this play, he has written a broad comedy.
The basic plot is simple. In the Florida panhandle, a local bar is not doing business with its young Elvis impersonator, Casey. On the home front, his wife, Jo isn’t happy about his lack of responsibility. He used the debit card to buy pizza which caused the rent check to bounce for the second month in a row. Even his friend Jason from whom they are renting, isn’t happy. Jason’s wife is on his case about it. To make matters more difficult, Jo has just learned they are expecting a baby.
If the home front is difficult, it is even worse on the job. As he is preparing to go on, Miss Tracy Milles and Rexy show up, two drag queens. Tracey is the nephew of Eddie, the bar; the bar is changing formats to a drag show, only Eddie has forgotten to tell Casey. He’s fired as an entertainer but is allowed to stay on as a bartender.
It doesn’t take genius to figure out where this is going. One night Rexy consumes way-too-much alcohol and passes out; Eddie and Miss Tracy push Casey to fill in, doing Rexy’s Edith Piaf number. If this reminds you a bit of the last third of Gypsy so be it. Yet it is still hilarious, particularly for the phrase that Miss Tracy tells Casey to mouth to the Piaf French lyrics.
Again, it is predictable. Casey begins to get into the role of Georgia McBride but neglects to tell his wife how he making so much money. Of course, she comes to the club one night and is shocked to see him as his drag persona.
Do I need to tell you that it all ends happily, with some tidy moral messages about finding and accepting all parts of yourself?
Yet even with the predictability of the plot and the somewhat simplistic messages, this is great fun.
A good part of the fun is the multiple drag numbers that Casey and Miss Tracy perform. They lip sync to everything from old tunes to modern ones. Casey eventually finds his “persona” as a sassy, country-western singer. Musically you get everything.
If the plot is predictable and the almost 2 hour show is padded with the many musical numbers, it is still a delight. That is due to many factors, foremost is the performances of Austin Thomas as Casey and Jamison Stern as Miss Tracy Mills. Stern was a spectacular ZaZa in Goodspeed’s production of La Cage aux Folles a few season back, also directed by Rob Ruggiero. But he has numerous other credits.
Both of these actors turn in top-notch performances. They are totally believable in both their drag queen and “real” personas and create non-stereotyped characters.
They are aided by the other three cast members. J. Tucker Smith is fine as the small town, brusque bar owner, Samaria Nixon-Fleming is Casey’s wife, the more mature, responsible half of the couple. Nik Alexander plays both the landlord Jason (who is also Casey’s friend) and the drag queen Rexy, who has a definite attitude.
Rob Ruggiero pulls on all of his skills as a director of both plays and musicals to make the show flow beautifully.
Costume designer Leon Dobkowski has risen to the occasion with appropriately sequined, sexy and outrageous costumers. Ralph Perkins has choreographed the numbers with flair. A special shout out must be given the backstage crew, many of whom are interns from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School for the many quick changes that the actors make.
This is great fun. It might be somewhat predictable but it a wonderful entertainment.
It is at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford through Sunday, April 29. For tickets, call 860-527-7838 or visit TheaterWorks
This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zipo6.com