Can an Elvis Impersonator reinvent himself as a drag queen? More to the point–can an impoverished married straight man with a child on the way become a successful star drag act? This is the thin premise that playwright Matthew Lopez has used to create his hilariously outrageous ode to the art of drag The Legend of Georgia McBride at International City Theatre in Long Beach. Women grab your best gay friend; men clutch your pearls and enjoy the rip-roaring good time that director Jamie Torcellini has staged.
Casey (Taubert Nadalini) is a handsome young man doing his pitch perfect Elvis impersonations for a crowd of seven at Cleo’s Bar in Panama City, Florida. The bar’s owner, Eddie (Tom Trudgeon), doesn’t want to fire Casey but he has to make money. He’s going to try something different by booking his cousin Bobby’s (Jeff Sumner) act into Cleo’s. Bobby, who works professionally as Miss Tracy Mills, is joined by Miss Anorexia Nervosa (Donzell Lewis), known to friends and foes alike as Rexy. Casey stays on as bartender because he really needs the money now that his wife Jo (Karese Frizell) is pregnant. When Rexy gets drunk and the show must still go on, Casey volunteers to get into Rexy’s bra and panty hose and a star is almost born.
Casey is unsteady in his new high heels and gowns but with a lot of guidance and gay fairy godmother good will from Tracy, he finally discovers his true identity as country western drag act Georgia McBride. He’s soon expertly taping down his package and packing customers into the bar for four shows a night. Rexy enters rehab and Tracy and Georgia become a Drag Dynamic Duo. Casey showers his wife with money but neglects to tell her the true source of his suddenly largely increased income. Marital problems loom before a happy ending arrives for all.
Lopez has written a very funny play, especially the backstage and onstage shenanigans. The offstage marital tribulations prove a bit of a drag (no pun intended) to the fun times, but thankfully they don’t occupy too much time in this finely tuned laugh fest. The show’s numbers are the raison d’etre thanks to Kimberly DeShazo’s costumes and Anthony Gagliardi’s hair and wig designs. Grant Hodges gets credit as Associate Choreographer and for make-up.
Nadalini is a find as Casey, sweetly innocent from start to finish and as comfortable in an Elvis jumpsuit as in a halter top, mini skirt and thigh high boots. Sumner delivers all his one-liners with precision. The supporting cast makes their two star divas shine bright. There is a clever segment in Act Two that effortlessly and uproariously covers the passage of time. Emcee Eddie announces holidays while Georgia and Tracy take turns celebrating with their outrageous routines and DeShazo’s equally flamboyant costumes take center stage.