Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell
April 6, 2023 Issue
A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.
PART 5A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY ROBERT O'CONNELL
The Legend of Georgia McBride at PlayMakers Is Delightful
PlayMakers Repertory Company's production of The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew López stars (from left) Jamison
Stern as Tracy, Adam Valentine as Casey, Jamar Jones as Rexy, and Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Eddie (photo by HuthPhoto)
Matthew López's The Legend of Georgia McBride -- the final show of PlayMakers Repertory Company's 2022-23 season -- is a remarkable experience. It is a fast-paced comedy-drama-musical that entertains from beginning to end.
Written in 2014 by Matthew López, The Legend of Georgia McBride is a story about Casey, a young, married, Elvis impersonator, who gets involved in the art of performing in Drag. The play is set in a seedy bar called Cleo's, near the beach in Panama City, Florida.
Adam Valentine starts off as Casey, an Elvis impersonator, in PRC's production of The Legend of Georgia McBride (photo by HuthPhoto)
Cleo's owner Eddie (played by Adam Valentine) replaces Casey with Miss Tracy Mills and Rexy (Jamison Stern and Jamar Jones), a pair of Drag queens, to try and save his bar. Casey, whose wife Jo (Saleemah Sharpe) is pregnant, stumbles into performing in the Drag show to avoid eviction. It's a pretty silly framework for a story, but The Legend of Georgia McBride is so much more as it explores the transformative world of Drag and its uplifting effect on each of the characters.
Adam Valentine is solid as Casey, an overly optimistic young man trying to find his voice. His depiction of Casey's transition in confidence throughout the play was remarkable. Saleemah Sharpe shows a wide range of emotion as the put-upon wife, Jo. Jamar Jones had the most interesting performance as both Jason, Casey's landlord, and Rexy, a sassy Drag queen. They are two completely different characters, and you will find yourself thinking about what is happening backstage to rapidly and frequently transition the actor from a laid-back dude, to a heavily costumed and made-up Drag queen throughout the show. Jeffrey Blair Cornell plays Eddie, the bar owner, who serves mostly as emcee and comic relief.
The Legend of Georgia McBride at PlayMakers stars Jamison Stern (left) as Tracy and Adam Valentine as Casey (photo by HuthPhoto)
To me, the true heart of the show is Jamison Stern, as Bobby/Tracy. Tracy is the Drag queen with the vision to transform both Casey and Cleo's into success and fame. Stern is in Drag for about 90% of his role, but is absolutely powerful in his one scene as Bobby, his non-performing self.
The play asked many questions about who we are and how we got there. It explores Drag from a queer perspective and a straight one. It explores the passions needed to perform, and those needed to find your best self.
The cast for The Legend of Georgia McBride includes (from left) Jamison Stern as
Tracy, Adam Valentine as Casey, and Jamar Jones as Rexy (photo by HuthPhoto)
The Legend of Georgia McBride is directed by Jeffrey Meanza and choreographed by Matthew Steffens. It is staged in an in-the-round style in the beautiful Paul Green Theatre in UNC-Chapel Hill's Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art. Special props go to scene designer Michael Raiford for creating the feel of the dive bar. Costume designer Asa Benally also deserves mention for the incredible array of Drag looks.
I only had two minor disappointments in the show. The first was that 90% of the music is lip-synced. While it worked in the show and is a significant plot point, I was expecting more of a Kinky Boots style, which is apparently quite rare in the Drag world. Also, as good as Adam Valentine is as Casey, as Georgia, he is so tall and lanky that he didn't strike me as a top-level Drag queen.
Jeffrey Blair Cornell (left) and Adam Valentine star as Eddie and Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride (photo by HuthPhoto)
The best added bonus was an extended and exuberant Drag show, including all five cast members that acted as the best curtain call that I have ever experienced.
Last night, the show was preceded by a 90-minute reception that featured many performers in Drag, mixing with the crowd. There was also a large LGBTQ+ support contingent. There were empty seats in the theater, and you can still get tickets.
The Legend of Georgia McBride at PlayMakers Rep stars Jamison Stern (left) as Tracy and Saleemah Sharpe as Jo (photo by HuthPhoto)
PlayMakers Rep producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch wrote the following in the program for the show:
The Legend of Georgia McBride is a heart-filled, theatrical gateway to better understanding and celebrating the art and experience of Drag. But today, in many places across our nation, there is far more fear than joy in the experiences of members of the Trans and Drag community.
For this reviewer, this show is an important opportunity to become an advocate as well as to be entertained.
The Legend of Georgia McBride at PlayMakers Rep stars Jamison Stern (left) as Tracy and Jamar Jones as Rexy (photo by HuthPhoto)
Matthew López's THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE (In Person April 2; April 4-9, and 11-16 and Streaming April 13-16), directed by Jeffrey Meanza, choreographed by Matthew Steffens, and starring Adam Valentine as Casey/Georgia McBride, Saleemah Sharpe as Jo, Jamar Jones as Rexy/Jason, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Eddie, and Jamison Stern as Bobby/Miss Tracy Mills (PlayMakers Repertory Company in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC-Chapel Hill's Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art). DIGITAL PLAYBILL: https://issuu.com/playmakersrep/docs/georgia_playbill. TRAILERS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPfNcSaGxhI&t=1s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YMqMYpv7X4. PRC VIDEOS: https://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep1. THE PRESENTER: https://playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://www.instagram.com/playmakersrep/, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO7crv41zzCYf9HxRDUEVdw. 2022-23 SEASON: https://playmakersrep.org/season/2022-23/. PRC BLOG: https://playmakersrep.org/about-us/our-blog/. THE VENUE: https://playmakersrep.org/about-us/paul-green-theatre/ and https://museum.unc.edu/exhibits/show/names/paul-green-theatre. DIRECTIONS/PARKING: https://playmakersrep.org/visitor-info/directions-and-parking/. CAROLINA TOGETHER COVID-19 PAGE: https://carolinatogether.unc.edu/. THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE (2014 Denver and 2015 Off-Broadway Comedy): http://www.matthewlopez.com/plays/legend.html, https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5378, http://www.iobdb.com/Production/5980, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Georgia_McBride. THE SCRIPT (excerpts): https://www.dramatists.com/previews/5378.pdf and https://books.google.com/. MATTHEW LÓPEZ (Panama City, FL-born dramatist and screenwriter): http://www.matthewlopez.com/, http://www.iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/39641, https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/matthew-lpez-522864, https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5870715/, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Lopez_(writer). NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe and American-sign-language interpret the show's 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4th, performance. NOTE 2: The 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9th, show will be an open-captioned performance, with a "universal-access" live-caption unit, communicating dialog, stage directions, and sound effects. NOTE 3: The 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 11th, performance will be a socially distanced show. NOTE 4: There will be a postshow discussion after the 2 p.m. Sunday, March 10th, performance TICKETS: $20 and up ($10 students and youth), plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy tickets for in-person performances and here to buy $25-per-household tickets for the April 13-16 video-on-demand performances. INFORMATION: 919-962-7529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE DONATE TO: PlayMakers Repertory Company.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Robert O'Connell is a playwright, and has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has a MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O'Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC.
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