The Legend of Georgia McBride – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

In the world of entertainment, an actor can transform from one character or persona to another with a change in voice, a wig or a costume. With skill and talent, a complete metamorphosis can occur right before the audience’s eyes. When Casey, a struggling Elvis impersonator, finds he is overwhelmed with financial issues, from unpaid rent to buying a pizza on the installment plan, he has a moment of revelation: he must change, his name, his dress and his act.

Hartford TheaterWorks is inviting you to that moment of epiphany in Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” stripping down to its essentials until Sunday, April 29. In the hands and other body parts by Austin Thomas, we see Casey struggle to support his wife Jo, an understanding and newly pregnant Samaria Nixon-Fleming, with an optimistic outlook and a new wardrobe. With the encouragement and mama mentoring of Miss Tracy Mills, a fantastic Jamison Stern, Casey finds himself on stage at a bar/club run by Eddie, an enterprising J. Tucker Smith, as a drag queen.

Enter Georgia McBride and learn that Elvis has, indeed, left the building. With bows to Liza, Pink and Lady Gaga, Casey emerges in full feathers and flamboyant fashion. The drag queens strut triumphantly, with the addition of Rexy, an outspoken and sassy Nik Alexander, who doubles as Casey and Jo’s understanding landlord Jason. So what’s the problem with this picture? Casey forgets to tell Jo of his new career choice.

While Jo is responsible and realistic, Casey is optimistic and full of potential. With the green light from Eddie, and the encouragement and assistance of Miss Tracy, Casey sees the future through his rose colored glasses. Being kind, wise and dependable, Casey discovers that tolerance and diversity and being open to change and opportunity can be life altering. When he lip syncs “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” he is just hitting his stride. Rob Ruggiero directs this peek under the wig and inside the dress of a drag queen, with help from Leon Dobkowski’sfascinating costumes, Paul Tate dePoo III’s behind and before the stage set design, John Lasiter’s sparkling lighting, Ralph Perkins’ perky choreography and Ed Chapman’s sultry sound.

For tickets ($45-70), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

For lessons in makeup, wig styling and drag queen dress, look no further than Casey and Tracy’s dressing room for a behind the curtain peek at a unique area of show business.