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by Matthew Lopez

The Legend of Georgia McBride

FEB 3-19
Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

H-T Review

‘Georgia McBride’ a light-hearted comedy with glitz and sass

By Matthew Waterman
February 7, 2017

LGM 4

Will Mobley, left, and Melody Louisdhon are shown in a scene from “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” the latest production by Cardinal Stage Company. Photo by Blueline Media Productions.

“I worked as an Elvis impersonator until I made it big in drag.”

That’s not a career story one hears often, but it applies to Casey. He’s a somewhat redneckish, ostensibly straight man, but a combination of financial straits and pure accident thrusts him into the wild world of drag.

Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” tells Casey’s story simply, but with plenty of frills (literally). Cardinal Stage Company regulars may remember the company’s 2014 production of “The Whipping Man,” a drama about slavery that was also written by Matthew Lopez. This is absolutely nothing like that.

Casey travels far and wide to perform his Elvis act, but it’s just not raking in the dough. Purchasing newer and fancier jumpsuits doesn’t seem to help. Another month late on the rent is the last straw for Jo, Casey’s wife. Matters are only complicated by the fact that she is pregnant.

Things get worse before they get better. Casey loses his regular gig at Cleo’s, a slightly trashy bar run by a similarly trashy guy named Eddie. Eddie brings in a couple drag queens to replace Elvis.

When one of the queens, Rexy, disappears for several nights on a bender, Eddie and Tracy (the other drag queen) call on Casey to fill in. After some persuading, Casey gets outfitted with tights, heels, fake hips, fake breasts, a dress and a wig.

He’s a fish out of water doing “Padam Padam” as Edith Piaf. Thus is born Casey’s drag persona, Georgia McBride.

A few more shows, and Casey starts to get the hang of it. He grows a sense of confidence and an appreciation for the art form. Before long, Georgia McBride is an audience favorite.

The problem is that Jo has no idea he’s gotten into the drag business; she thinks he’s bartending. It’s not entirely clear why Casey’s drag career is such a big secret, because Jo doesn’t seem like a judgmental or prudish type, but Casey keeps his newfound profession under wraps until Jo makes a surprise visit to Cleo’s.

“The Legend of Georgia McBride” is a lighthearted comedy. Lopez does touch on some heavy themes in a serious manner, but only in scattered moments. The bulk of the show is unadulterated laughs.

The story is punctuated by extended sequences of drag performances by Tracy, Rexy and Casey. The audience is encouraged to bring tips to the stage during the drag songs. Proceeds go to Bloomington PRIDE, a local organization that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community members.

Joanie Schultz, a Chicago-based freelance director, helmed this production effectively. The jokes are bountiful, and they almost always land. The sitcom-like feeling of the play makes for a pleasant and relaxing, if not captivating, outing.

Mike Price is totally believable as Eddie, his personality matching the cheapness and charm of the establishment he operates. Armand Fields plays both Rexy, Tracy’s assertive and alcoholic partner in drag, and Jason, Casey and Jo’s excessively laid-back landlord.

The role of Tracy is filled with passion and sass by Aaron Holland. Tracy ends up being a surprisingly pertinent figure in Casey’s life, imparting that particular brand of wisdom that has as much to do with looking fabulous as it does with meeting life’s challenges.

Jo and Casey are played by Melody Louisdhon and Will Mobley, respectively. Mobley is appropriate as both the irresponsible boyfriend and the dazzling diva (once Casey gets his drag act down).

The drag queens embody a range of personas with the help of Johna Sewell’s glitzy, glamorous costumes. Some of Casey’s are fashioned from old Elvis jumpsuits.

The most relevant factor in assessing a light, easygoing show like this one is whether this production captures the humor that Lopez has built into his script. The answer in this case is undoubtedly a “yes.”

If you go

WHO: Cardinal Stage Company.

WHAT: “The Legend of Georgia McBride” by Matthew Lopez.

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Auditorium, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and Feb. 15-18; 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and Feb. 18-19; 7 p.m. Sunday.

TICKETS: $14.95-$36.95. Available at cardinalstage.org or by phone at 812-336-9300.