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The Legend of Georgia McBride: Toot

by | May 5, 2023 | Review | 1 comment

publicity photo for The Legend of Georgia McBride

Do we care about these two? Yep. Monice Peters as Jo and Jacob Woike as Casey.
(Photo by Moonrider Productions)

The script is mixed up and the production is inconsistent, but this show is fun — and that counts for a lot.

In The Legend of Georgia McBride, playwright Matthew López tells the story of an Elvis impersonator named Casey who’s struggling — and failing — to make a living in a little club on the Florida panhandle. Casey’s wife Jo is newly pregnant and they’ve missed their rent payments two months in a row. So the stakes are about as high as in The Perils of Pauline. But, when one of the queens in the two-person drag duo that’s supposed to replace him passes out drunk and can’t go on, Casey slips into a pair of heels, goes onstage as an instant drag artist, and starts to accumulate a lucrative following.

To be clear, Casey’s success in this show-must-go-on scenario isn’t remotely plausible, but it is good natured. And the next section, in which the script backs up and Casey’s mentor, an older queen named Tracy, works with him on building his skills and persona, is some kind of wonderful.

It’s wonderful because the script’s set-up and the affability of the performers unleash a tidal wave of good will from the audience. As written by López and fulsomely embodied by actor Jacob Woike, Casey is a sweet doofus, an irresponsible optimist who loves his wife with every cell of his being and picks up his guitar to sing her the song he wrote for her.

In a very smart move, López has allowed us to witness Casey’s transformation from the underwear up — starting with his tighty whities, and adding stockings, hip pads, cinching, and fake boobs. The process feels intimate. And, as Casey starts to develop more skills, glamour — and confidence — in a series of short scenes that alternate backstage prep and onstage performance, we are pulling for the guy. The night I was there, by the time Casey had acquired his drag name, Georgia McBride, and worked his Elvis swivel into sassy, girlishness, the audience was going wild. I knew I was being manipulated. I still had goosebumps.

Woike isn’t the only one who delivers a winning performance. Double cast as the drunken drag queen Anorexia Nervosa (Rexy) and Casey’s friend and impatient landlord Jason, Karthik Kadam is a star waiting to be discovered. He’s got phenomenal comic timing: at one point, when Rexy is particularly dolled up, director Jamie King lets her gaze at herself in her cellphone for a while, coquettish, entranced — surprised! Kadam is so different — and just as funny — as stoner-bro Jason.

I was touched by Monice Peters’s vulnerability as Jo and charmed by Greg Armstrong Morris’s trademark puckishness as Eddie, the bar owner. Bringing world weary wisdom to Miss Tracy Mills, Ron Kennell delivers many of the script’s funniest lines with the understated panache of a pro. When Casey comes knocking on her door looking for advice late at night, Tracy responds, “I just took an Adderall. I’m going to turn into Jessica Lange any second, so you’d better make it quick.”

But there are holes in Georgia McBride. That run in which Casey develops his skills and finds his persona? It’s great — until he finds his persona. The persona itself is boring: all enthusiasm, no finesse. And that’s part of a larger problem: choreographed by Joe Tuliao, the drag performances aren’t nearly as slick or as much fun as they need to be. And, given the potential of her assignment, Jessica Oostergo’s costumes are hit and miss — or toot and boot to use the drag phraseology. She gives Rexy some very saucy looks, but only some of Lucy’s outfits hit the mark and none of Georgia’s costumes dazzle.

More problematically, the resolution López fashions is wonky. There’s more befuddlement than surprise to be had in that resolution, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to give it away.

The central tension in the show is that Casey hasn’t told Jo he’s doing drag. I think that’s because he’s afraid of looking gay. But, when Jo comes right out and asks him why he keeps performing in women’s clothing, he says it’s because he’s a better, more responsible person when he’s Georgia and he wants some of that to rub off on the real him. There are a couple of problems with this. The smaller one is that homophobia doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for Casey — or anybody else we meet. More significantly: we have not seen Casey become a better person as Georgia: he just makes more money — and he lies his panties off. So López doesn’t stick the landing.

Overall though, The Legend of Georgia McBride is a good ride. It’s also kind of a love fest, which is heartwarming — and helpful — in this era of increasing anti-drag hatred.

THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE By Matthew López. Directed by Jamie King. An Arts Club Theatre production. On Thursday, May 4. Running at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre until May 21. Tickets

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1 Comment

  1. Dane

    I really enjoyed this musical/play. You helped flesh out the parts I had a problem with, without removing the love.


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