BWW Review: It's Hamilton Month in Orlando, but Don't Sleep on THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE at Garden Theater
A fledgling Elvis impersonator reluctantly takes a secret gig as a drag queen in the Florida panhandle... and hopes to God his wife won't find out.
That's the high-concept premise of THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE, a play that debuted in Denver in 2014 and has been staged in about a dozen other cities since then (including a well-received Off-Broadway run in New York) and is soon to be a movie starring Jim Parsons.
Now comes its Central Florida debut at the Garden Theater in Downtown Winter Garden, FL.
Let me tell you, it's something to see.
I can't promise that any of the plot twists will surprise you, that they don't rely on unlikely conveniences, or that you won't see the climax coming all the way from this end of I-4. But I'm pretty sure it won't matter for you. It didn't for me.
The characters are so likeable, the simple arc so relatable (even if, like me, you've never seen a drag show in person before), and the comedy so successful that you're totally drawn in after only a scene or two.
The show is very much a shared experience, and the Garden feels cozy during it. The giant flamingos flanking the stage instantly make you feel like you know where you are.
If that sounds tacky, well, it's supposed to be, but scenic designer Joe Klug and his crew have put together an impressive set under the loving direction of Rob Winn Anderson (who also serves as choreographer). Were I to complain about the production, it would be that the dialogue was sometimes hard to hear, at least on opening night. But in fairness, that was mostly because the audience was laughing so robustly.
Not every joke lands, but more do than don't, and theatre lovers will eat up the musical references.
Speaking of musicals, this isn't one, but the entire story is built around divas' discographies, so there's music aplenty. Most of it is lip synched (exactly what the story calls for - it's about a drag show, after all), but there is a modicum of live singing too, courtesy of Casey, the reluctant drag star.
Casey comes to life at the Garden thanks to Chris McCoy, whose stellar lead performance is probably the production's greatest of several strengths.
There's also Simon Coulthard as Miss Tracy Mills, a more experienced drag queen who mentors Casey and brings real heart to the show. There's a scene early on where Tracy defends Casey after he's fired for not wanting to wear a dress... it's a small but human moment, revealing Tracy to be more than just a stock character or a stereotype. She continues to grow from there, and Coulthard is at once empathetic and hilarious.
Rounding out the cast are Fredy Ruiz (who impresses in two drastically different roles, Rexy the drag queen and Jason the landlord), Adia J. Seckel (as pregnant wife Jo, who gives one of the funniest lines in the show - I won't spoil it), and Rich Somsky (who steals the scene in each of his fleeting appearances as bar owner Eddie).
As a theatregoer, I'm typically drawn to gumption over glitz, depth over glamor. To my surprise, THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE has a little of all that, plus a quirky, campy sensibility all its own.
On opening night, the Garden attracted passersby with pre-show entertainment in the form of an Elvis impersonator and a juggler, both of them contributing to high spirits on the streets outside. Maybe that's how they filled every seat... and ended up announcing an extra night due to demand (along with a very exciting upcoming 2019-2020 theatre season) that same night.
THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE is now running through February 3, 2019. A select few "cabaret-style" seats are available at the foot of the stage. Those audience members get just a little bit of interaction from the performers. My seat was farther back (admittedly, I'm not one for audience participation), but from my vantage point, it seemed like a fun and altogether modest, harmless experience. To purchase tickets (whether cabaret or standard seating), visit the Garden Theatre's website or call (407) 877-4736.
What did you think of THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE at Garden Theatre? Let me know on Twitter @AaronWallace.
Photo Credit: Garden Theatre