BWW Review: Thoroughly Entertaining THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE Makes its West Coast Premiere at the Geffen
We are still laughing, days after seeing the West Coast premiere of THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE at the Geffen Playhouse. The play with fantastic and ultra-flamboyant musical numbers will keep you laughing from beginning to end, centered on "a wildly joyous story of empathy, of inclusivity, of community, of the potential for art to build bridges," according to the Geffen's Artistic Director Randall Arney. Along with Mr. Arney, I send kudos to the six collaborators who have shepherded the play in its journey before arriving at the Geffen: playwright Matthew Lopez, director Mike Donahue, choreographer Paul McGill, cast member Matt McGrath, set designer Donyale Werle and sound designer Jill BC Du Boff so that L.A. audiences have a chance to celebrate the glory that stems from watching the best drag queen show since KINKY BOOTS.
Matthew Lopez's hip-shakin', heartwarming tale explores what happens when one man trades in his blue suede shoes for platform pumps and discovers he ain't nothing but a drag queen. As the play opens, we meet tall, thin and shirtless Casey (Andrew Burnap in a tour-de-force performance), as he preps at his dressing table to take the stage. But after years of struggling at this small-time club in the Florida Panhandle, Casey realizes it's now or never for his career as an Elvis impersonator. But unfortunately, his boss Eddie (Nick Searcy) tells him changes are being made since patrons are no longer showing up for Casey's act and it's just not financially feasible to continue things as they are. So what is Casey to do since he just found out he and his lovely wife Jo (Nija Okoro, the ultimate supportive wife) are expecting a baby with no real means of economic support?
It turns out Eddie has decided to bring a traveling drag queen show to the club to see if it will draw a crowd so he can stay afloat. Enter Miss Tracy Mills (Matt McGrath, the fantastically talented originator of the role), a self-proclaimed grand dame of drag who guarantees Casey's life is about to get "all shook up" after his fellow drag show partner Miss Rexy (Larry Powell who enters on roller skates in a drunken stupor) can't go on. After being convinced himself, Casey assures Eddie and Tracy he can re-work his Elvis costume into a drag queen outfit and bring a new version of Elvis to the stage, with Tracy christening him as the Legendary Miss Georgia McBride. Thus, the incredibly entertaining and humorous story begins about how transforming your act can lead to a more fulfilling life.
In the program, director Mike Donahue explains it more succinctly as he describes what drew him to the piece: "One of the things that I love about this play is that it is almost like a fairytale and it is unabashedly celebratory and fun and raucous. But it also has a real story. It's about these people who are dealing with some pretty desperate economic circumstances; they're living in a world in which there isn't necessarily a lot of opportunity for social or economic mobility. And they're people who, in different ways, don't have a family at the beginning of the play. As we follow Casey, ... this magic happens where the characters find a family and are able to start moving their lives forward.Also be commended is costume designer E.B. Brooks with Wig & Makeup Designer Tiphanie Grace who have created the most outrageously gorgeous drag queen outfits which the cast seems to change backstage in a matter of minutes. Certainly, seeing behind the set would be a show on its own, with each costume change more glamorous than the last. And how do these men manage to remove all that makeup, come out as regular guys, and then minutes later come out transformed again into such authentic drag queens? True, many of Casey's initial transformations take place in full view of the audience, but once the shiny curtain drops and the big show begins at the end, all is hidden from sight except for what the real club audience sees onstage in the final drag queen stage celebration.
I guarantee by the time it ends, you will be on your feet dancing with the entire cast as all their dreams come true! I urge you to see this incredibly entertaining show before it dances its way out of town!
THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE continues in the Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, through Sunday, May 14, 2017 with performances on Tuesday - Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. Dark Mondays. Running time is an hour and 40 minutes without an intermission. Tickets are priced at $32.00 - $90.00 with college student tickets priced at $25, available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310.208.5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Fees may apply.
Photos by Jeff Lorch Photography