Drag and lip-syncing belong together. Like salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, and eye shadow and mascara, when combined, they produce an impact that’s more than the sum of the parts. In The Legend of Georgia McBride, which runs through December 23 at the New Vic, we get plenty of both, along with a slight but amusing family drama that’s helped along by several excellent performances.
First, let’s dwell on the high points. As the drag veteran Tracy Mills, Bill Brochtrup is fittingly fabulous. His arch comebacks and sidesplitting one-liners all land, and his lip-sync numbers, particularly one in which the music is intercut with appropriately melodramatic soundbites from classic films, are truly something to behold. It’s ironic that Tracy’s self-deprecation kicks in when someone suggests she should do a 0077hole evening on her own. Even if that would amount to what Tracy refers to as “me in my bedroom as a teenager,” something she is sure that “no one should have to pay to see,” there are moments when one wishes there were more of it.
As Casey, the straight Elvis impersonator whose metamorphosis into Georgia McBride is at the core of the story, Stephen Michael Spencer plays the hand he’s dealt expertly and with vigor, but there are holes in the logic of the script that let some of that marvelous energy escape. We are meant to see the fact that Casey keeps his new drag persona a secret from his wife Jo (Keiana Richàrd) as a major betrayal requiring her forgiveness, but it’s never clear why this should be such a big deal. What does crossdressing mean for this particular man? I’m not sure that we ever find out. Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as both J. Stephen Brantley and Carlton Byrd deliver brilliant supporting performances that keep the whole thing light and clever. While what’s happening beneath the makeup may not be fully revealed, there’s beauty, humor, and skill galore in Georgia McBride’s flashy exterior.