LATHAM- “The Legend of Georgia McBride” is a piece of fluff with a giant heart. It’s that heart that redeems and makes pleasant the comedy playing at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham through November 18.
The Georgia McBride of the title is Casey, a failed Elvis impersonator, who in order to pay the bills and keep his pregnant wife healthy, becomes a drag queen. Once he finds himself as a performer, Casey also finds himself as a man, a husband and a friend.
If that’s not heartwarming enough for you, there is also the relationship between Casey and Miss Tracy Mills, an experienced drag performer who is reduced to playing seedy clubs like Cleo’s, located on the Florida Panhandle. Miss Tracy is as comfortable being a gay man as Casey is uncomfortable being a straight man who performs for a mostly gay audience at the club.
Miss Tracy not only teaches Casey the right moves to be a star, he teaches his protégée how to respect himself as a person. The show gives a deeper and more complex meaning to gay pride.
Thanks to honest, unforced performances by Rocky Bonsal as Miss Tracy and Matthew Reddick as Casey, the predicable story takes on a sincerity that makes the work an enjoyable experience.
Bonsal is marvelous as he creates a character who is comfortable in his own skin; a person who is kind to Casey without being an enabler. Rarely do you find an actor who can provide such gentle dignity to a character.
Reddick is just as good as a man who is never out to prove he’s heterosexual. He projects masculinity off stage, but you know he’s arrived when he is able to comically trash talk like a bitchy queen to another performer. Thus, when he is able to see the art form through the same eyes as Miss Tracy, it’s a proud moment that the audience enjoys sharing..
If the subplots were as successful, it would be a much better production. Carol Max directs the domestic moments between Casey and his wife Jo in a slow manner that puts an artificial weight on the scenes. Brooke Hutchins' passive portrayal of Jo, makes the reason for Casey keeping his work secret seem unconvincing and thus reduces any conflict in the work.
Emmet Ferris plays the alcoholic drag queen Anorexia Nervosa, with ponderous deliberation. Because Roxy is saddled delivering the play’s most preachy lines it makes the character seem little more than a device.
Thankfully, Jack Fallon infuses the club owner Eddie with a ton of personality and energy. Fallon’s appearances are always fun as he makes a genuine character out of a walk-on role.
The lip-synching numbers are terrific and they help reveal the growth and changes of the characters as they prosper. The final “It’s Raining Men” number that uses the entire cast is great fun.
A problem with the production is that though Beth Roman’s costumes are good, there aren’t enough of them. Having actors perform drag in a basic black dress or a glorified sun dress suggests that drag is only about lip-synching. Wrong. It’s not about doing an imitation, it’s about capturing the excesses of a bigger-than-life show business female icon. If you are going to do Cher and other divas, you better capture, dress like, and exaggerate their personalities. This rarely happens at Curtain Call.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” defines light-hearted entertainment as it makes few if any demands on an audience. It’s got glitter, music and laughs – most of all it’s got heart.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” at Curtain Call Theatre, Latham Performances Thursday-Sundays. For schedule and tickets 518-877-7529, or go to curtaincalltheatre.com
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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