Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Legend of Georgia McBride
TheaterWorks
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3 and Zander's review of Jesus Christ Superstar


Austin Thomas and Jamison Stern
Photo by Lanny Nagler
The Legend of Georgia McBride, at TheaterWorks in Hartford through April 22nd, is a sweetly insightful story into a world in which men dress up as women and perform exquisitely through lip sync. Directed by Rob Ruggiero, Matthew Lopez's script is fully realized by five adept and versatile performers. Austin Thomas appears as Casey, who becomes Georgia McBride, drag queen par excellence.

Casey's young wife Jo (Samaria Nixon-Fleming) is pregnant and these two haven't a dime for survival. Casey has just purchased a sparkling new suit to impersonate Elvis. As the story unfolds in Florida's Panama City, Eddie (J. Tucker Smith), hoping his bar will be more profitable, brings in drag performers Miss Tracy Mills (Jamison Stern) and Rexy (Nik Alexander), an actor who also appears as another character, Jason, from time to time. Jason is landlord for Jo and Casey and understands the predicament they face but he needs them to pay the rent.

When Rexy cannot make a gig, Casey, thanks to undergarment padding, outfitting galore (quite imaginative), and excellent wig, takes on the persona of Georgia McBride, an instant drag sensation. Casey's making money but has not revealed the situation to his wife. Jo, when she discovers her husband's new professional identity, threatens to toss him out. Fear not, reader—the plot moves in a more favorable direction.

Ralph Perkins' choreography for the production is top notch and the actors execute with precision. Leon Dobkowski's bright, eye-catching costumes augment the proceedings and Mark Adam Rampmeyer supplies necessary wigs. Paul Tate dePoo III, designing the set, shifts scenes from Casey and Jo's apartment to the club called Cleo's which includes a well-worn dressing area and a glitzy stage. John Lasiter lights through traditional means as well as strobe and more.

Austin Thomas, playing the lead, is a blazingly talented young man. His lip syncing is well timed and he, on solo guitar, delivers a plaintive song (without electronic enhancement) near the end of the production; written by playwright Lopez, it is entitled "Lost and Found." Thomas creates a beautiful and radiant character as he lends realization to Georgia McBride. The play is, to be sure, a comic piece but also opens a figurative door which brings into view the world of the drag performer.

Jamison Stern's Tracy is more seasoned with the drag craft and assists Casey. Tracy excels with the tune "I Enjoy Being a Girl." Stern also delivers a smashing line: "I swear to God, if men had breasts, the world would cease to function." Stern has been featured on numerous national tours. Nik Alexander, at the conclusion of the presentation, sparkles with glamour during a front-and-center finale. Alexander appeared on Broadway in Motown The Musical.

The truthful nature of Georgia McBride, more than the plethora of laughs it drew during a recent performance, proves its worth. This production brims with equal parts warmth and talent. Director Ruggiero brings together a hugely spirited production. Playwright Lopez sends the story off and flying in one direction yet returns to the original moments which are between youthful Casey and Jo, the expectant parents. An adept writer, Lopez has also authored such plays as The Whipping Man and Reverberation.

There isn't any question that The Legend of Georgia McBride is amusing and fun, but that is not all. Further, and perhaps more importantly, it is fascinating for its portrayal of time, place, and distinctive characters. In this way, the show is transportive. It provides entre to the culture of drag performance with ease and buoyancy.

The Legend of Georgia McBride, through April 22, 2018, at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-527-7838 or visit www.twhartford.org.


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