Dorset's "McBride" anything but a drag

Matthew Lopez regional premiere rocks Dorset Playhouse

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DORSET — Dorset Theatre Festival continues its landmark 40th anniversary season with a rousing regional premiere of Matthew Lopez's "The Legend of Georgia McBride." The play is directed by Stephen Brackett, who clearly had his players primed for the spectacle awaiting near-capacity audiences.

The story finds us in Panama City, at a typical dive bar managed by Eddie (Denny Dale Bess), where failed Elvis impersonator Casey (Joey Taranto) is faced with losing his job to low crowd attendance. Enter drag queens Miss Tracy Mills (David Turner) and Rexy (Jon Norman Schneider), who plan to take over.

Rexy goes down to booze, and Casey is faced with a choice: take over the drag act, or walk. He chooses the paycheck, and Georgia McBride is born. Later, Casey fails to tell wife Jo (Vasthy Mompoint) of his new gig, but manages to hand over all the rent to landlord Jason just prior to being evicted (also played by Schneider).

This show was just plain fun, with excellent music throughout, and highly affected drag numbers that had the audience interrupting with applause, and by the end of the play, with multiple standing ovations, had folks dancing in place, wishing they could just do it in the aisles.

Taranto's Casey showed much versatility in tackling both Elvis impersonating - which opened the show in a rousing way - and drag, where he amazed everyone with his quick changes back and forth, and convincing aura.

Turner wowed the crowd as Miss Tracy Mills, his caricature as well as musical talents fused into a dynamite package of curves and padding.

Schneider, whose Rexy was a hoot, was especially adept in switching over to landlord Jason, and masterfully delivered one of the play's more poignant moments in his reminiscence of dating a drag queen in his youth.

Mompoint adeptly navigated an emotional Jo in and out of pregnancy, uncertainty, and acceptance, all while remaining highly likable.

Finally, Bess could have been lifted from the pages of a comic book or a bad movie, his Eddie was so perfectly satirized and delivered. He should patent that performance because I can't imagine anyone doing it better.

The play ran about 90 minutes with no intermission.

Lights by Zach Blane and sound by Ryan Rumery enhanced the whole dive bar atmosphere. Lee Savage's set was beautifully imagined and built, and costumes by Bobby Frederick Tilley added to the visual glutton, in the way a play like this should. Choreography by Patrick McCollum was imaginative and fluid, and Will Rucker stage managed the endless moving pieces of this play with tight efficiency.

Were there serious themes about bullying, drag culture, and human identity present? Yes there were, and this cast took Lopez's work - which has received acclaim at all stops since its release a few years back - and made it their own, along with opening many audience minds along the way.

But by and large "Georgia McBride" is a feel-good act, an affirmation of everything that is good about human beings, with a healthy dose of fun mixed in.

In the dog days of August, this play is exactly what is needed on a theatre's slate, and Janis delivered. Don't let the opportunity pass to see it: to laugh, to tap your feet, and then to jump up at the final curtain with shouts of "Bravo!"

"The Legend of Georgia McBride" will run through Aug. 19 at Dorset Theatre Festival, 104 Cheney Rd., Dorset, Vt. Info: 802-867-2223 or dorsettheatrefestival.org

— Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias on Twitter: @Telly Halkias or email him at tchalkias@aol.com.


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