When the curtain rises on the Honest Pint Theatre Company’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride, modern-day dreamer Casey (played by Matthew Hager) just wants to live his best life as a renowned Elvis impersonator. Unfortunately, he lives in the Florida Panhandle, bounces the rent check by buying a pizza, and his wife just found out she’s pregnant. So, when Casey’s boss Eddie (David Klionsky), owner of the failing bar Cleo’s, fires him in the hopes that a drag show will drum up more business, Casey finds himself desperate.
If Casey stays on at Cleo’s as a bartender, he won’t make nearly enough money as the drag queens do. So, when one of the drag queens ends up passed-out drunk one night, Casey does what any desperate young millennial would do — he dons a dress and gives drag a shot.
Under great — and hilarious — protest, Casey finds that he has an aptitude for it; and you can guess where the show goes from there. Matthew Lopez’s script doesn’t exactly break out of the realm of predictable plot progression; it barrels through this modern-day moral odyssey with such bombastic exuberance that it’s impossible not to go along for the ride and enjoy every minute of it.
Matthew Hager plays Casey to the hilt, with the perfect mix of puppy-dog charm and idealistic pluck that make it believable that a former jock and simple family man might actually put on a dress if it meant putting food on the table. His warm goofiness and almost painful earnestness make him instantly loveable, so one can appreciate why Jo — played by the fierce Tiffany Lewis — would stick with him through the ups and downs of their youthfully turbulent marriage.
David Henderson’s Miss Tracy Mills commands the stage in a powerhouse performance that is equal parts Mary Tyler Moore and Barbra Streisand. Henderson’s gravitas is only enhanced by luscious curves and a seemingly endless arrangement of facial expressions.
David Klionsky does a fabulous turn as well, transforming Eddie from dour failing-business owner to a successful show manager with a flashy underbelly of his own. Last but hardly least, Jesse R. Gephart steals nearly every scene he’s in; and considering the talent across the board, that’s saying something. Transitioning effortlessly between playing Casey’s best friend/landlord Jason and the flamboyantly over-fortified Miss Anorexia Nervosa, Jesse’s substantial stage presence is matched only by the incredible heart that he brings to both distinct characters.
Honest Pint’s rendition of The Legend of Georgia McBride might be the best entertainment in the Triangle at the moment, easily living up to Honest Pint’s reputation for producing some of the best shows in town. With a run-time of two hours (without intermission — and possibly without air conditioning, though one prays William Peace University has gotten the air conditioning in the Leggett Theater fixed by now), Georgia McBride is a rodeo of raunch, mixed with a boatload of heart.
Susannah Hough’s direction keeps this rather lengthy one-act moving well, playing a symphony of scenes that dance from serious to hilarious and back to heart-wrenching with dexterity. Mad props go out to LeGrande Smith for the incredible costuming, and to Laura J. Parker’s sky-high wigs, of which there seemed to be no end. (Not to mention a huge shout out to dressers Laura Stover Goodwin and Heather Carithers, who were undoubtedly sweating as hard as any of the actors.)
Anthony Buckner’s lighting and sound design are key elements, showcasing the many musical numbers that are essential to the plot, character development, and massive entertainment factor (all drag numbers are performed in lip synch). Tab May’s set design is understated yet effective, providing distinct performance areas while allowing Cleo’s to transform itself along with the characters.
The Legend of Georgia McBride is a resplendent mélange of musical numbers and myriad moods that is certain to have audiences in stitches and tears through the rest of its run, playing through Sunday, June 2nd.
SECOND OPINION: May 22nd Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 stars out of 5): https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/the-legend-of-georgia-mcbride-honest-pint-theater/; May 22nd Cary, NC RDU on Stage review by Lauren Van Hemert: https://rduonstage.com/2019/05/22/review-honest-pints-production-of-the-legend-of-georgia-mcbride-balances-camp-with-moral-message/ and May 19th podcast interviews with Vivica C. Coxx, Susannah Hough, David Henderson, and Matthew Hager, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://rduonstage.com/podcast/ep-20-vivica-c-coxx-susannah-hough-david-henderson-and-matthew-hager-talk-drag-queens-and-the-legend-of-georgia-mcbride/; and May 18th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9441.
The Honest Pint Theatre Company presents THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE at 7:30 p.m. May 31 and June 1 and 2 p.m. June 2 in the Leggett Theater, located on the second floor of Main’s Building’s East Wing, at William Peace University, 15 E. Peace St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $22 ($15 students, people under 25, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: https://honest-pint-theatre-company.ticketleap.com/the-legend-of-georgia-mcbride/. SHOW: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/794037964312581/.
PRESENTER: https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/honestpinttheatrecompany/, and https://twitter.com/HonestPintthe8r.
The Legend of Georgia McBride (2014 Denver and 2015 Off-Broadway comedy): https://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=5378 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://iobdb.com/Production/5980 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legend_of_Georgia_McBride (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: https://issuu.com/geffenplayhouse/docs/legend_of_georgia_mcbride_-_study_g (Geffen Playhouse).
Matthew Lopez (Panama City, FL-born playwright): http://iobdb.com/CreditableEntity/39641 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5870715/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Lopez_(playwright) (Wikipedia).
Susannah Hough (Raleigh, NC director and co-artistic director of Honest Pint Theatre Company): http://www.susannahhough.com/ (official website), https://www.honestpinttheatre.org/copy-of-our-mission (Honest Pint bio), https://www.facebook.com/susannahhough (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/susannahhough (Twitter page).
Melanie Simmons of Cary, NC is a film and stage actress with a BA degree in Theatre from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA. She has studied acting with Sande Shurin Acting Studios in New York City and The Actor’s Workshop in Los Angeles, CA; and she now trains locally with Lynda Clark (stage), Daryl Ray Carlisle (film/commercial), and Rebekah Holland (voice). Simmons has performed at Raleigh Little Theatre in Raleigh, Forest Moon Theater in Wake Forest, Stageworks Theatre in Holly Springs, and many others. She is represented by Talent One Agency in Raleigh. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.>