Words by Rebecca Edwards
Photos by Akin Ritchie
There’s always something special about attending an opening night performance. I recently had the privilege and pleasure to attend the opening for The Legend of Georgia McBride directed by Bruce Warren at the Wells Theatre. The night was electric, and I walked away loving the performance more than I expected.
The lobby was full of people when we walked in. Cupcakes and champagne had been set out for patrons to enjoy before the show. There were so many vibrant colors and conversations filling the night. You couldn’t help but notice the beautiful queens who had come to see themselves on the stage. Their makeup was flawless, dresses full of sparkle, and an indescribable vibe that spread through the theatre.
I was immediately drawn to this production when I saw it announced during the last season. There was something different, and I couldn’t wait to experience it. I had no clue what to expect. I soon learned that my excitement was well-justified. The Legend of Georgia McBride is the story of a man, Casey, played by Max Falls, who learns to have pride in following his dream. He is a professional Elvis Impersonator who is unexpectedly fired after learning his family is about to multiply. Circumstances change and he must do something he never imagined doing to provide for his wife and family. He discovers that all roads aren’t the same and while some may seem like they’re turning away from the final destination, they are really just helping you learn to love yourself and become the best version of you. No journey is complete without someone to share a little tough love. Miss Tracy Mills, a well-versed drag queen, is brought to life by the phenomenal actor Steve Pacek. She is the epitome of “the glass is half full” and “you make your own destiny”. Together they follow their dreams and find their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
My first view of the stage raised the gooseflesh on my arms. The simplicity of a stand-up mic all alone on the platform in what looked like a dive bar… textured floors, gaudy glowing neon signs, a dingy table for two, and a working set of stage lights to highlight the bar stage… immediately caught my eye. David L. Arsenault’s scenic design was impressive throughout the performance. The nuance and detail was superb. The seamless transition from night club to apartment to backstage was splendid and each had the same painstaking detail. I hadn’t seen anything like it before and thoroughly enjoyed the technical aspect of the set. I itched to go on stage after the performance just to soak it all in!
The house lights dimmed and we were transported by Sinan Refik Zafar’s sound design. His talent and editing abilities really shone through the lip-sync performances. So many cuts and choices, it was truly impressive.
The intimate ensemble of five performers were well cast and breathed so much life and personality into these fascinating characters. Pacek created a Miss Tracy that in my mind will never be duplicated or improved. She was soft and strong at the same time. Her presence was mesmerizing. I was particularly impressed later in the show when we see Pacek out of drag and completely make-up free in an emotional scene with Falls. Shortly after he was back on stage in full makeup and flawless- the transformation was magical! Pacek’s solid performance leaves you wanting more.
Falls brings a wholesome refinement to a naïve Casey. I admire how he has embraced this character and made it his own. His talent shines through not only his acting, but his singing and dancing as well.
Samaria Nixon-Fleming’s performance as Jo, Casey’s wife, was sincere. You could feel her frustration as she struggled with her husband who hasn’t quite collected his adulting card. Her love for him was obvious and appeared genuine.
Club owner Eddie was played by Bill Rogers with gusto. I enjoyed watching his growth from failing bar owner to all-in ally embracing the changes and prosperity that build his confidence.
Brandon Curry rounded out the cast as Rexy/Jason. He bounced effortlessly between married, straight landlord Jason and over the top queen Rexy. Her moment of truth with Casey absolutely struck a chord. There were two queens in the audience sitting near me and to watch their emotional response to everything was humbling.
I think we as the average theatre goer don’t realize just how impactful it is to see yourself on the stage under the lights. I saw the impact for the ENTIRE audience and it was moving.
Lighting designer Akin Ritchie created such stunning images throughout the performance. I loved each of Miss Tracy’s lip-sync scenes. There were a variety of brilliant tableaus throughout the entire production. I enjoyed RASPBERRIES the most!
Have I mentioned the costumes?! Oh girl!!! Miss Tracy’s wardrobe was TO. DIE. FOR. Bryce Turgeon’s vision and execution was more than words can ever describe. There were distinct color schemes for each character that carried seamlessly from beginning to end. The feathers, the sparkles, the lace… impeccable! His impressive resume doesn’t give enough credit for what I saw on that stage! The details not only in the dresses, but the matching handbags and hats; the costume reveals beneath other costumes… astonishing!
The “Costume Pit Crew” was a fun addition to the show and made the transitions fun to watch. It was a smart move to incorporate them onto the stage and into the scenes. Steven Perfidia Kirkham’s wig design was a true complement to the incredible lines and color presented through the costumes on stage.
This show is a MUST SEE for EVERYONE! It maintains a balance between campy, serious, emotional and fun through the acting of Pacek, Falls, and the entire cast.
Tickets are limited, especially now with the modified schedule. The Virginia Stage Company has announced that out of an abundance of caution, and due to concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), they have decided to cancel the final week of performances for The Legend of Georgia McBride, March 18-22. The production will officially close with the 7:30pm performance on Sunday, March 15. For these final weekend performances (March 13-15), VSC will limit the amount of seats available to keep the gathering under 300 people.
To see more about their decision and plan of action, please contact the theatre directly through their website. Please don’t let this precaution deter you from taking the opportunity to see this magnificent show. If you are healthy and looking to do something fun, I strongly encourage you to take a chance and enjoy The Legend of Georgia McBride.
VSC has cancelled all remaining performances. They will close the show with their matinee 3-14-20.
The Legend of Georgia McBride plays at the Virginia Stage Company through March 15, 2020.