Reviewed by Bishop C. Knight
(Stoneham, Massachusetts) This was a production ostensibly about an Elvis Presley impersonator, but it turned out to be an entertaining tale about much more – 1960s billboard music in general, dance as freeing self-expression, femme identity, family, marriage, and pregnancy. On a warm spring day, a pal and I attended the last show of the play’s run, and The Legend of Georgia McBride was an absolutely perfect performance for that breezy Sunday afternoon. Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham is a comfortable venue, and everyone loved the music featured throughout the play. Ushers tapped their feet. Patrons around me snapped, clapped, and sang along. The actors infused the story with a hopeful and happy energy that kept the audience laughing, commiserating, intrigued, engaged, and enthusiastic.
The play begins with an Elvis Presley impersonator named Casey (Jared Reinfeldt), who is going broke and cannot support his pregnant wife. Casey has been performing in a Florida bar, where the owner is on the verge of firing Casey, in order to replace the Elvis act with a drag show. However, the veteran drag queen Miss Tracy Mills spots potential in Casey. Casey reluctantly joins Miss Tracy’s show but carries great shame about his femme persona. One of the many funny moments in this play is when Miss Tracy breaks down Casey’s situation for him: “Baby is coming. Daddy makes no money. Daddy puts on funny clothes. Baby goes to Harvard.” Unable to argue with Miss Tracy, Casey stays in the world of drag, grows to love the part of himself that is a queen, and earns enough money to support his wife and children.
In this strong ensemble cast, Miss Tracy Mills delivered the most funny lines. When she’s coaching Casey on how to fake it through a song he does not know, Miss Tracey advises him to confidently mouth the phrase “watermelon motherfucker” during any unknown lyrics. Then when Casey successfully shams his way through an Edith Piaf melody, the audience applauded his fledgling efforts, before Miss Tracey flamboyantly pronounced “Goddammit, I am good.” At that moment and in many others, Miss Tracy was the darling thespian of this troupe. The audience loved her, and I commend the actor Rick Park for how he created a drag queen whose brilliant and benevolent bitchiness completely enchanted us. When Park took his bow at the end of the show, patrons were standing, whistling, hooting, thunderously clapping.
This was my second time attending a performance at the Greater Boston Stage Company, and this time I departed decidedly as a staunch supporter of the playhouse. I appreciate what they do, how they do it, and who their target audience is. The Greater Boston Stage Company remembers history and those who have lived through it. After this second visit, I walked away from the theatre envisioning planning sessions that must take place; imagining theatre staff discussing, with kindness and consideration, how to incorporate pop culture which will resonate with patrons who were young and middle-aged adults in the 40s, 50s, 60s; patrons who heard Elvis’ songs debuting on the radio.
However, the Greater Boston Stage Company also has its sights on the present and future. With gender bending mainstream in the 2010s, it is timely to stage the story of a heterosexual white jock who is a proud drag queen as well a traditional family man. So I left Greater Boston Stage with respect for this company’s multi-generational mission.
I’ll end this review with two recommendations:
Next week Calendar Girls goes onto the Greater Boston Stage. Click here to buy your tickets, and bring your mother and/or your most hilarious auntie. You will be supporting a wonderful community theatre.
Lastly, it seems The Legend of Georgia McBride is being adapted by New Regency and Fox 2000, with Jim Parsons producing and playing Miss Tracy. When the cinematic adaptation lands in theatres, go see it!