BWW Review: THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE at JCC CenterStage Theatre
JCC Centerstage continues its 2018-2019 season with a play as unique and ambitious as its season opener (Becoming Dr. Ruth). The Legend of Georgie McBride, a Rochester-area premiere written in 2015 by Matthew Lopez, highlights the JCC's commitment to staging unique and diverse stories, as well as featuring both well-known and lesser-known works of theatre.
The Legend of Georgia McBride tells the story of Casey (Kevin Plinzke), a struggling Elvis impersonator living paycheck-to-paycheck in the Florida panhandle with his wife Jo (Abby Prem). With his Elvis act slowly tanking, his landlord (Matt Ames) knocking at the door, and the discovery that Jo is pregnant, Casey's boss Eddie (D. Scott Adams)-the owner of the dive bar where he performs his act-offers him a way to make rent: trade in his Elvis suit for a skirt and heels. Under the tutelage of Miss Tracy Mills (Thomas Smalley aka Aggy Dune) and despite the booze-fueled rivalry of peer queen Rexy (Ed Popil aka Mrs. Kasha Davis), Casey morphs from a D-list Elvis impersonator into the hottest drag act below the Mason Dixon line.
While the entire acting troupe is stellar, Rexy and Miss Tracy Mills steal the show with their ceaseless sass and constant ability to verbally z-snap the silly men they're surrounded by who, frankly, don't have any idea who they're dealing with. Mrs. Kasha Davis is a tectonic force every time she graces the stage (last seen in Blackfriar Theatre's production of Rocky Horror), and her presence in this production is just as fabulous; it's just unfortunate that we don't get to see even more of her (her character is absent for the middle 1/3rd of the show).
While I'm not sure I'd go as far as calling The Legend of Georgia McBride a "musical"-as all the music is recorded and lip-synced-music is an almost nonstop presence in the show, particularly in the second act, which is essentially a mini drag show. I would have liked to have a more energetic audience, as it's a little odd to be present for what is basically a drag show amongst a crowd of sleepy matinee attendees, but that's no fault of the actors. My advice: do what you can to rile up the folks in your row!
In addition to her great work on stage, Aggy Dune deserves a huge bravo for the costume and wig design. It's such a fun visual treat to see the wide array of sparkly dresses, boas, heels, and wigs change from scene-to-scene along with the musical numbers. The highlight of the show comes when we see Casey's first time getting into drag, and having to be coached into tights and prosthetic butt padding by Miss Tracy Mills.
Despite the endless laughs, glam and glitter-all of which are plentiful-probably the most lasting and impactful component of this production is the way in which it highlights the lineage and heritage of drag. As a drag novice, someone who's never been to a show or watched an episode of RuPaul, my understanding of drag was pretty underdeveloped before seeing Georgia McBride; that it's a prominent-albeit just fun, and maybe even a little silly-part of gay culture, one that made me chuckle from afar but that I didn't take too seriously. The closing scenes of the show, featuring a knockout monologue by Rexy, teach the audience-particularly simpletons like me-that it's not just about dressing up and lip-syncing to Cher. Drag is a decades-old tradition of protest, an enormous middle finger to the closed-minded echelons of society that beat up, spit on, and look down at people who don't conform to their socio-normative definitions of gender, sexuality, and expression. As Rexy so powerfully puts it, "Drag is not a hobby. Drag is not a night job. Drag is protest. Drag is a raised fist inside a sequined glove."
The Legend of Georgia McBride is a unique, hilarious, important, and tremendously fun story. It's playing at JCC's Centerstage until December 16th. For tickets and more info, click here.