The Legend Of Georgia McBride


Through Sunday, Jun. 2

Peace University’s Leggett Theatre, Raleigh

Casey (Matthew Hager) stands alone on stage, encased in a white jumpsuit, an oversize wig, and too-big aviator glasses, his sneer more suggestive of Elvis Costello than Elvis Presley. After he lip-syncs the King’s hits, drag impresario Tracy Mills (David Henderson) provides the postmortem: “Your Elvis act died on the toilet. Let it go.” 

Clearly, something’s got to give for Casey in The Legend of Georgia McBride, which is currently enjoying a raucous Honest Pint Theatre production at William Peace University. After his tribute act tanks, Casey’s wife interrupts a fight about their latest bounced rent check to reveal the positive results of her pregnancy test. But just as all hope seems lost, redemption comes as he’s forced to go on as a last-minute understudy in the drag show replacing his Elvis revue. After a furiously comic five-minute costume and gender change backstage and a none-too-steady homage to Edith Piaf, Casey’s on his way to becoming the top drag queen in Panama City, despite the crippling shortcoming of heterosexuality.

Playwright Matthew Lopez poses one serious question amid the fish-out-of-water mirth: How can anyone attempt drag if they’re unaware of its legacy in the gay community? “Drag is protest,” diva Rexy Nervosa (Jesse Gephart) chides Casey at a crucial juncture. “Drag is a raised fist inside a sequined glove.” Ultimately, Casey has to face not only these questions and his own mixed emotions about the genre, but a wife (newcomer Tiffany Lewis) he’s kept in the dark. 

With help from drag consultant Vivica C. Coxx and costumers LeGrande Smith, Shanna Burns, and Laura J. Parker’s wigs, director Susannah Hough devises a series of amusing, imaginative, stirring tributes to Southern song makers Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntyre, and Shania Twain, alongside standards by Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Gloria Gaynor. And along the way, a showbiz loser finds his best self in the last place he thinks to look.

Correction: The print version of this piece misstated the names of Susannah Hough and Carrie Underwood.

Support independent journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.