By Jean Lowerison | Theater Review
If Elvis can’t save the day, how about a drag queen or two? In Matthew Lopez’s sprightly “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” a man saves everything by discovering his inner woman. The play is at Cygnet Theatre through Nov. 12.
In Panama City, Florida, Casey (Spencer Bang) has been trying to make ends meet with an Elvis impersonation act he’s been doing at Cleo’s, a local bar owned by his friend Eddie (Lance Carter). But one night he arrives to find two drag queens in the dressing room.
It seems Eddie has decided that Elvis isn’t selling enough drinks. But Miss Tracy Mills (David McBean) compassionately suggests that Casey stay on as bartender for her and Rexy, aka Miss Anorexia Nervosa (Chesley Polk).
Meanwhile, back at home, Casey’s wife Jo (Alexandra Slade) is fuming because Casey bought a pizza with the debit card and they’ve bounced the rent check — again. And, by the way, she’s just found out she’s pregnant.
When Rexy shows up for work drunk one night, Miss Tracy drafts Casey, stuffs him into a sparkly dress and wig “from your Janet Reno phase” and gives him a crash course in playing Piaf. He’s to lip-synch to the song “Padam, Padam,” and is told that since he doesn’t know the French words, he can just lip-synch “watermelon motherf***er” and no one will be the wiser.
She gives him a name — Georgia McBride — taken from the state where his mother was born and the last name of the first girl he kissed — et voilà! A new drag queen is born.
Meanwhile, back at home, Casey is determined to say nothing of this to Jo — until, of course, Georgia becomes a hit. You can guess the rest.
Director Sean Murray plays up the camp and gives costume designer Jennifer Brawn Gittings all the leeway she wants for outrageousness in costumes. I’m tempted to say she is the real star of this show. They are fabulous.
It’s good to see new faces onstage, too. Spencer Bang’s transformation from Casey to Elvis to Piaf and onward is great fun to watch, and so is his growing ease with the requirements of drag.
Chesley Polk’s tippling Rexy gets some great bitchy lines and has the look as well. He also plays Casey’s friend Jason.
Alexandra Slade is excellent in the difficult part of Casey’s wife Jo. She has to adjust to Casey’s new look and job and pretend to be happy about it. Slade isn’t new to the area but she is to Cygnet.
Lance Carter, coming off his terrific appearance as Harry the Horse in The Old Globe’s “Guys and Dolls,” is just as good as Eddie, the owner of Cleo’s.
Returnee David McBean is the local drag queen par excellence, and his Miss Tracy Mills is a total hoot.
If you’re looking for a bit of respite from the news of the day or any other unpleasantness in your life, you can’t do much better than “The Legend of Georgia McBride.”
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.