'Georgia McBride' at TheaterWorks: Grab Your Girdle And Go
The show: "The Legend of Georgia McBride" at Hartford's TheaterWorks
What makes it special: The latest celebration of drag mania and the return of Jamison Stern (Goodspeed’s “La Cage Aux Folles”) in something pretty.
First impressions: Feel good show that is a sweet, easy-lift diversion
What's it about?: The King is out and the queens are in when Casey (Austin Thomas), an Elvis impersonator with an act that’s not clicking at all is about to be canned at a Florida Panhandle nightclub in favor of a pair of down-on-their-heels dragsters. When Roxy (Nik Alexander), one of the drag performers, is too drunk to go on, Casey — a straight man with a pregnant wife (Samaria Nixon-Fleming) and with the rent way past due — steps into the stilettos, with guidance from a veteran queen, Miss Tracy Mills.. Casey under his new guise of Georgia McBride, becomes a local sensation and in finding his new performance persona also discovers a new avenue to express his talents on stage. It’s all showbiz, girl. But before the last spin of the disco ball, there’s bumps and tucks along the way, a secret to be found out and lessons finally learned.
Sounds like fun: It is, though much of it is fairly schematic and predictable. And a good chunk of the play is a mini-drag show.
Wow, a two-fer: Yes, but this dragspecular (heavily borrowed by legendary drag star Lypsinka) is at the expense of the play,, when the characters should have been more fleshed out -- and I don't mean with falsies. This long interruption keeps the play from being more significant though there are two great monologues towards the end of the play by Jamison and Alexander on the meaning, history and importance of drag. For a deeper exploration of the drag world, check out Tarell Alvin McCraney's "Wig Out!"
Rob Ruggiero directs with huis usually deft touch. Paul Tate dePoo III's set nicely transforms TheaterWorks into an extension of the nightclub -- and the upstairs lobby exhibit is a winner, too. Ralph Perkins provides the spirited choreography. Marl Adam Rampmeyer provides endless looks with his series of fantastic wigs/
J. Tucker Smith is solid at grizzled bar owner and Alexander does an extraordinary switheroo as both the landlord and the dizzy drag dame. Nixpon-Fleming cant do much with the underwritten role and clunky dialogue supplied for Jo, Casey's wife. Thomas, whose cheekbones, dreamy eyes and coy smile makes it easy to make this regular guy into an all-Amnerifan girl, Butt it's Stern who is the heart and soul of the show, as a survivor of many a battle in his commitment to be his own man —and woman,.
Who will like it?: Now who doesn’t love dress up?
Who won't?: Mike Pence. (Though one can easily picture him in a…oh, never mind).
For the kids?: The playful tone is one that all but the very young can identify with. But you may have to explain a few thing to the youngsters. Like who the hell Elvis is.
Twitter review in 140 characters or less: Its “My Fair Lady” in heels, Grab your girdle and go.
Thoughts on leaving the parking lot?: Matthew Lopez is a playwright that cannot be pinned down. Hartford Stage presented his “The Whipping Man”, “Somewhere” and “Reverberation” and three more diverse plays in subject matter and tone you won’t find. Ditto for “George McBide” which throws camp caution to the wind . His latest work — "The Inheritance — has just received rave reviews in London. Expect it on these shores soon.
The basics: The play has been extended through April 29.