Review: "The Legend of Georgia McBride" at TheaterWorks

Tara Kennedy

  • Chief Connecticut Theatre Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Grab your false eyelashes, size 12 pumps, and Judy Garland quips, and go see Theaterworks’ latest offering, The Legend of Georgia McBride. Written by Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man, Reverberation), it relays the journey of a young man finding his place in the world in the last place he probably ever thought of: in a drag show. I will tell you how much I liked this show: After curtain call, a woman behind me in the audience commented that I appeared to be enjoying myself; apparently, I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm. It’s hysterical and heartfelt, provided you have no problem with men dressing up as women and lip-syncing. Obviously, I don’t.

Casey (Austin Thomas) is a happy-go-lucky young man, but not the most responsible dude around. His wife, Jo (Samaria Nixon-Fleming), is tired of their rent checks bouncing because Casey gets a hankering for pizza and uses the debit card. Not only that, Jo found out that she is pregnant, so money is more important than ever. Jo works as a server at a restaurant while Casey is living out his dream as an Elvis impersonator at Cleo’s, a bar in their hometown of Panama City, Florida, owned by Eddie (J. Tucker Smith). However, Eddie has other plans. He has asked his cousin, Miss Tracy Mills (Jamison Stern), to come and replace Casey’s act with something more entertaining and potentially lucrative: a drag show. So, Tracy and her friend, Rexy (Nik Alexander), arrive in Panama City and are ready to start their act at Cleo’s. Unfortunately, in the middle of the show, Rexy had a little too much vodka and couldn’t go on. Tracy then gets Casey a dress, a few hand gestures, and voila! Casey becomes Edith Piaf. “Lip sync or swim!” says Tracy. Luckily, the crowds love him and Tracy; they start making money hand over fist. Should Casey reveal to his wife how he is making a ton of money suddenly? And that he is enjoying his new-found career as country drag queen Georgia McBride?

 J. TUCKER SMITH, NIK ALEXANDER, AUSTIN THOMAS, and JAMISON STERN (Lanny Nagler)

J. TUCKER SMITH, NIK ALEXANDER, AUSTIN THOMAS, and JAMISON STERN (Lanny Nagler)

Stern is the perfect mix of sassy and sincere as Tracy. He delivers his one-liners with impeccable timing, and his drag performances are showstoppers. His one number, “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” was one of my favorites, and he also is a great Judy Garland. Stern also demonstrates Tracy’s more serious side when Casey struggles and apologizes for letting Tracy down. Alexander too shows his versatility by playing a wild drag queen and Casey’s friend, Jason; I didn’t realize that they were the same actor until late in the second act. His speech to Casey as Rexy in Act II is passionate and earnest, and one of my favorite moments in the show. And I challenge anyone to pull off some of his staggering dance moves. Thomas is charming and sweet as Casey; his quest of finding himself is a genuine journey and the audience is with him every step of the way. I wanted to like Nixon-Fleming as Jo, but found her performance lacking in sincerity; she often came across as disengaged, which is a shame, since Thomas is giving so much in his performance. Smith rounds out the cast well as Cleo’s emcee and owner.

The set design by Paul Tate dePoo III is nicely detailed and cleverly compact: the living room of Casey and Jo’s apartment was tucked behind two sliding set pieces that served as Cleo’s backstage; a curtain then served as Cleo’s stage.  Costumes by Leon Dobkowski provide fantastic glitz and glam to the drag performers.   

I thought this show was tons of fun; if you’re up on your gay and drag culture, it will have you in stitches. So, grab your friends, and come down to TheaterWorks in Hartford for a great time!