Theater Review: THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE (Center Rep at Lesher Center in Walnut Creek)

Post image for Theater Review: THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE (Center Rep at Lesher Center in Walnut Creek)

by Chuck Louden on November 14, 2023

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


Definitely worth the drive out to the suburbs, Center Rep’s The Legend of Georgia McBride is fun, irreverent and empowering.

Alan Coyne

Matthew López (The Inheritance) created this original story of Casey (Joe Ayers), who works as an Elvis impersonator in Cleo’s, a dive bar in Florida, where most of the action takes place on Kelly James Tighe’s multi-purpose set. Eddie, the bar manager (Alan Coyne) in loud polyester shirts and sleazy greasy hair needs to bring in more money. So “Elvis” is out and a distant cousin’s drag queen act is in, as the bar needs fresh ideas to draw in bigger crowds. Since Casey’s wife Jo (Sundiata Ayinde) is pregnant and he needs a job, he agrees to stay on as the club bartender.

Alan Coyne, J.A. Valentine, Jed Parsario and Joe Ayers
J.A. Valentine and Joe Ayers

Seasoned drag queen Miss Tracy Mills (J.A. Valentine) and her dysfunctional alcoholic sidekick Rexy (Jed Parsario) are now the stars on the marquee. As the new act takes over, drunk Rexy becomes beyond dysfunctional and can not continue to perform. But the show must go on! Miss Tracy Mills thinks fast and has to almost immediately transform the former Elvis impersonator-now bartender into a convincing drag queen. And this is where the fun really begins. Under Miss Tracy’s tutelage, Casey reluctantly and slowly adjusts to the hair, make-up, fake boobs and sequined outfits.

Joe Ayers

Remember when Whoopi Goldberg transformed tone-deaf nuns into skilled performers complete with choreographed dance moves in Sister Act? It’s kinda like that. Casey begins to shine, taking pride in his new drag persona “Georgia McBride.” The new show is a hit but complications ensue when Rexy cleans up her act and wants her job back. And Jo — who is in the dark about her husband’s new act — is getting suspicious. It all comes together in true drag queen fashion as the singing, dancing and messages about love, tolerance and transformation seize the day.

Joe Ayers, J.A. Valentine and Jed Parsario
J.A. Valentine, Joe Ayers and Jed Parsario

López’s well-written dialogue contains more than just snappy drag queen quips. It’s interspersed with poignant moments and life truisms about overcoming obstacles in life that ultimately make you stronger. Instead of just reducing her drag characters to caricature, Queer actor/director Elizabeth Carter (Wolf Play at Shotgun) used Drag Consultant Chris Steele to give the show an authentic drag experience — indeed, Casey’s transformation from “King” to “Queen” is heartwarming. Carter also ensures that her ensemble works together almost like a family.

Jed Parsario

Parsario has the dual task of playing Casey and Jo’s high school friend and landlord, Jason, and the messy Rexy. By slowly showing Rexy’s self-acceptance of who she is and her struggle to get there, this performance is worth the price of admission. The role of Rexy elucidates that her messiness comes from living in a world of ridicule and misunderstanding. Although Casey’s character is the protagonist, J.A. Valentine’s seasoned Miss Tracy Mills is so much more than a jaded sassy drag queen, showing her humanity underneath the makeup and wig in a particularly revelatory scene.

Joe Ayers

Becky Bodurta’s gorgeous sequined costumes and wigs along with the (uncredited) fantastic choreography of well-known pop and country music hits (Jake Rodriguez sound design) got me rocking. And those of you familiar with Edith Piaf are in for a treat.

The show would of course play well in San Francisco, New York or Key West, but what a pleasant surprise to see such a diverse crowd in Walnut Creek, all cheering and clapping along together. An all-around fantastic show.

Joe Ayers and Sundiata Ayinde

photos by Kevin Berne

J. A. Valentine

The Legend of Georgia McBride
Center Repertory Company
Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr, in Walnut Creek
Tues-Fri at 7:30; Sat at 2:30 & 7:30; Sun at 2:30 & 7
ends on November 26, 2023
for tickets ($45-$70), call 925.943.7469 Wed-Sun, 12-6pm, or visit Lesher Arts

J. A. Valentine

Leave a Comment