The Legend of Georgia McBride at the Guthrie Theater
The Guthrie has been on fire recently with some pretty phenomenal, relevant and timely productions and their newest one is no exception. The Legend of Georgia McBride is not just a show about drag but self-discovery and also how far members of the LGBTQ community will go to express themselves, even when it comes down to live and death situations. However don't let my last comment fool you, while the show has a lot of heart and deeper themes it is truly a script that brings a smile to my face.
Casey tries to always look on the bright side of life despite the financial struggles him and his wife, Jo, feel. As a young Elvis Presley impersonator they can barely stay on top of their rent. Life takes a turn when he discovers his wife is pregnant and he's been fired from his gig at a run-down Florida bar. When the bar owner hires two drag queens to replace him, he soon finds out that his real calling may be in a different form of performing. So he trades in his jump suit for a pair of heels and recreates his act from "The King" to "The Queen." Casey goes through not only a complete physical transformation with the help of one of the drag queens named Tracy but also on the inside.
Something that I think is very important to note about this show is the costume and costume designer specifically, Patrick Holt. While Holt's name may not ring any bells for some people, he does go by another name and that does and it's Tempest Dujour. By day he creates and teaches stunning costume designs however by night he is a drag queen himself and even appeared on a season of the Emmy-Award winning show "RuPaul's Drag Race." This is an amazing feature because it shows that the Guthrie is willing to hire not only talented people but talented people who understand the culture behind the script. For more on Holt and the Art of Drag, click the button at the bottom of this review.
Holt's costumes are in a word gorgeous. Everything from the sequin Elvis jumpsuit to the stunning array of drag costumes. Whether they are glamorous for tear jerking scenes like when Casey sings one of his own original songs in a Elvis themed drag queen outfit or whether they are campy and fun like when Tracy and Casey perform together in a full on beach ball sand castle fantasy look, they are superb. I was ready to stand up and tip them as if I were at a real drag show!
The performances are all equally as fantastic. Jayson Speters plays Casey and is a very relatable character that reminds me of a lot of people I know. He's kind and charming but severely uneducated on various subjects that he may not have grown up with. Jim Lichtscheidl plays Eddie, the owner of the bar that they perform in and goes from a sluggish man who's given up to a lively entertainer and emcee by the end of the show. Chaz Hodges plays Jo, Casey's wife, who is adorable and goes through a unique transformation by the end of the show. Some of her moments with Casey are quite funny and recieved howls from the audience in laughter. However no one received more laughter from the audience than Cameron Folmar as Tracy and Arturo Soria as Rexy.
Drag ain't a hobby, baby. Drag ain't a night job. Drag is a protest. Drag is a raised fist inside a sequined glove." - Rexy
Folmar plays Tracy and, just like a drag queen would, knows how to work a crowd. He know's how to land a joke with a perfectly timed punchline. The character itself is beautifully written as one scene they show the man behind the woman and how raw and deep he can be. Arturo Soria has just joined my "Actors to watch" list as his portrayal of Rexy (short for Anorexia Nervosa,; the drag queens full name). Soria is not only funny but fearless as he embodied the character of Rexy. Near the end of the show, Rexy brought me to near tears with a monologue on the difficulties of being LBGTQ and a drag queen specifically. This is by far the most raw and emotional part of the show and Soria delivers it with respect, dedication and an air of storytelling. It's a quick monologue but enough to get the audience to break out into applause mid-scene.
Matthew Lopez writes a truly beautiful script which also is a love letter to the drag queens who helped him during his own coming out experience. The show is so much more than about men who wear a dress. it's rooted in realism and how many people don't realize who they truly are until they are almost grown up. A lot of this has to do with family, societal structure, religion and even a community you're involved in. Lopez script is also a great spark for discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Legend of Georgia McBride is funny as hell and raw to the core and plays at the Guthrie through August 26.
*Photos by Dan Norman