By Lauren Van Hemert
You could say the Honest Pint production of The Legend of Georgia McBride is a drag. That’s because the story revolves around a group of drag artists who rally together to save a fledgling Florida nightclub. It turns out though that the club isn’t the only thing that needs saving. The club’s Elvis impersonator, Casey, also needs a save, not only from being evicted but also from himself. And for Casey, it turns out that ditching his bedazzled jumpsuit for a pair of high heels just might be the first step towards self-discovery.
To ready the cast for this production, Director Susannah Hough enlisted the help of Vivica C. Coxx, Durham’s self-proclaimed Drag Diva and matriarch of The House of Coxx. Through her drag boot camp, Coxx schooled the cast on everything from walking in heels to connecting to a song. And for the most part, their hard work paid off.
David Henderson balances the right amount of sass and sensibility in his portrayal of Miss Tracy Mills. But it is only when he strips away the makeup and appears momentarily as a man that the scope of his ballsy performance truly becomes apparent. Henderson’s comrade-in-arms Jesse Gephart turns out another tour de force performance playing Miss Anorexia Nervosa (aka Rexy). Gephart is a master at both physical comedy and timing and his over-the-top portrayal of Rexy is electrifying, humorous with just a pinch of pathos.
Matthew Hager embraces the central character of Casey with wide-eyed exuberance and enthusiasm. Casey is a dreamer and his naiveté comes through in Hager’s performance concretely. What is less clear is the depth of his character, the layered why and how behind Casey’s catharsis. And while Hager does reveal his character’s vulnerability towards the end of the show, the mechanics of multiple costume and scene changes seem to weigh Hager down and mar what could’ve been a great performance.
And herein lies the biggest problem with The Legend of Georgia McBride. There are several juicy plot points and ideas in Matthew Lopez’s script, none of which seem to be fully developed. To compensate, Hough packs the show with a barrage of musical numbers, many of which are funny and entertaining but draw attention away from the storytelling. Consequently, midway through, things become a little stagnant and repetitive.
That said, there is a moral message here about finding your chosen family and being true to yourself that is very sweet and will resonate with many people. I just wish there was a little more focus on that and fewer hijinks.
The Legend of Georgia McBride runs through June 2nd. For more information visit: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/.
For more insight on this production, click here to listen to the RDU on Stage podcast (Ep. 20) featuring Susannah Hough, David Henderson, Matthew Hager, and Vivica C. Coxx.