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 7A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY JOEL HAAS
A Down-on-His-Luck Elvis Impersonator Finds a New Career --
and Lots of Laughs -- as a Drag Queen in The Legend of
Georgia McBride at PlayMakers Repertory Company
The Legend of Georgia McBride stars (from left) Jamison Stern as Tracy, Adam Valentine as Casey, and Jamar Jones as Rexy (photo by HuthPhoto)
PlayMakers Repertory Company's current production of The Legend of Georgia McBride, which runs through Sunday, April 16th, in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC-Chapel Hill, is the story of a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator who hits it big as a Drag-queen act -- until his wife finds out. Casey (played by Adam Valentine) formerly drove 80 miles a day to impersonate Elvis at "Cleo's," a small club & bar in Panama Beach, Florida. That is, until Cleo's owner Eddie (Jeffrey Blair Cornell) fires Casey and his Elvis act, which only draws about seven patrons a night. Eddie tells Casey that he has a new act coming in. If Casey wants continued employment at Cleo's, he can tend bar.
Things don't improve when Casey arrives home. His wife, Jo (Saleemah Sharpe), is furious that Casey has bounced their rent check for the second month in a row; and now they face eviction, even though Casey's best childhood friend, Jason (Jamar Jones), owns their apartment and lives next door. Adding to their woes, Jo reveals that she is pregnant.
When Casey returns to the bar, he encounters the new act that's replacing him. Eddie's cousin, Bobby (Jamison Stern), is a Drag queen going by the stage name of "Miss Tracy Mills." Tracy and her alcoholic sidekick "Miss Rexy" (also played by Jamar Jones) turn Cleo's and their own fortunes around.
Jeffrey Blair Cornell (left) and Adam Valentine star as Eddie and Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride (photo by HuthPhoto)
Opening night, Rexy passes out drunk before going on stage; and Casey is dragooned into taking Miss Rexy's place, lip-synching an Edith Piaf chanson. Despite the awfulness of his act, Casey and Miss Tracy make quite a bit of money that evening. Casey takes the stage name "Georgia McBride." Under Miss Tracy's tutelage, Casey becomes a first-rate Drag queen and is soon the main draw to Cleo's.
Casey tells Jo that he's making good money, because "Eddie's brought in a heavy metal band that packs the place," so Casey gets good tips tending bar.
The Legend of Georgia McBride at PlayMakers Rep stars Jamison Stern (left) as Tracy and Saleemah Sharpe as Jo (photo by HuthPhoto)
Months later, a very pregnant Jo comes to Cleo's and discovers Casey's Drag act. Jo finds out that Casey has lied to her. Worse, she blubbers, her husband is much prettier than she is!
It's Miss Rexy's first night back from rehab. Casey agrees to give up the Drag act. Even though Miss Rexy is a dynamite act -- when she's sober -- the crowd really comes to see Casey as Georgia McBride. Miss Tracy, Eddie, and Miss Rexy all feel let down by Casey's sudden walkout.
Jo finally understands that Casey loves doing his Drag act, because "When I'm Georgia, I'm not that person who worries about the rent or diapers." In the final scene. Jo has had twins -- which Miss Tracy dotes on -- and is now the stage manager for Cleo's -- and Georgia McBride is a bigger act than ever.
The show stars (from left) Jamison Stern as Tracy, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Eddie, and Adam Valentine as Casey (photo by HuthPhoto)
Dramatist Matthew López, who penned this script in 2014, based on his own experiences in a Drag bar while growing up in Panama Beach, Florida, writes that what he wants the audience to get from the play is "joy and delight." Thanks to Jeffrey Meanza's directing, the messages of the play -- (1) don't hate Drag queens, and (2) just be yourself -- do not get in the way of that goal.
Set designer Michael Raiford has a field day setting the stage as a Drag bar. In fact, audience members are invited to take seats at the little round club tables next to the stage.
The PlayMakers Rep cast for The Legend of Georgia McBride includes (from left) Jamar Jones as Rexy, Jamison Stern
as Tracy, Adam Valentine as Casey, Saleemah Sharpe as Jo, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Eddie (photo by HuthPhoto)
Asa Benally does a great job with the costumes. He understands "over the top." (Full disclosure -- my late mother was a theater costumer with a large clientele of Drag queens, an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, and an annual judge of Triangle area Drag-queen beauty contests, so I feel I can speak with authority on this.)
Lighting and sound are important to a show like this. Lighting designer Charlie Morrison, and composer and sound designer Kate Marvin both do a great job. Almost as important as the director for a show like this, the choreographer has to be tip-top and Matthew Steffens certainly is. Indeed, the "curtain call" for this PlayMakers Reop presentation is one heckuva over-the-top Drag-queen dance and lip-synching act.
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 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 Miss 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 email@example.com. PLEASE DONATE TO: PlayMakers Repertory Company. Robert O'Connell's Triangle Review Review Permalink. Susie Potter's Triangle Arts Review Review.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Joel Haas first acted in Raleigh Little Theatre's 1968 production of What Price Glory. Then in 1973 he was in several Theatre in the Park productions, including Cyrano, in which he played Le Bret. It wasn't until 1990 that he appeared on stage again, this time as a homeless veteran named Lou in The Speed of Darkness.
Haas' mother, Douglas Haas Bennett (1927-2018), was a professional theater costumer, the first full-time costumer that RLT hired. She later founded her own theater supply company, Raleigh Creative Costumes, in 1975.
Between 1981 and 2021, Joel Haas worked as a freelance steel and general materials sculptor in the Triangle. Since 2020, he has been writing magazine articles and a blog called Our War with Paraguay and How to Sit in a Hoopskirt: The U.S. Between 1848 and 1868 as Told by the Newspapers of the Time. (And, yes, the United States almost went to war with Paraguay in 1858.) Click here to read Joel Haas' reviews for Triangle Review.
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