International City Theatre’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” by Matthew Lopez is perfect for June as Pride Month. The high-energy musical story directed by Jamie Torcellini finds a married, expectant father performing for money as a beautiful drag queen, blending straight and gay worlds. While staging is a bit awkward, costumes and talent more than compensate to create an amusing and entertaining show.
Topping the talent of this production like a cherry on a sundae is Jeff Sumner as drag queen Miss Tracy Mills. Sumner thoroughly embodies his character’s heavily made-up elegance and dry comic delivery—batting long lashes with every biting remark—as she takes the straight Casey (Taubert Nadalini) under her wing, teaching him how to dress and perform in drag.
Slowly, Casey starts owning his gorgeous drag persona, Georgia McBride, gracing the stage of a dive bar in Florida that now draws crowds every night—a far cry from the handful of patrons when Casey performed there as an Elvis impersonator. Bar owner Eddie (Tom Turdgeon)—wearing long shorts, mismatched shirts, tube socks and construction boots—wants to keep a good thing going.
The extra money Casey makes helps keep a roof over the head of himself and wife Jo (Karene Frizell), especially important with a baby coming. But she doesn’t know that Casey’s iconic white Elvis jumpsuit has been converted into a legless bodysuit for Georgia McBride—until she visits Casey backstage one night and finds a half-dressed Georgia.
Adding to the cast mix is Tracy’s friend and drag performer Rexy (short for Anorexia Nervosa, unfortunately), played with sass by Donzell Lewis. Rexy schools Casey on what “drag” really means—not just dressing up as a woman but empowering oneself in resistance. Casey himself becomes confused about feeling gay when he performs as Georgia, though that seems to be more about the persona of gayness than sexual orientation.
In the end, the play portrays the blending of straight and drag worlds in a hopeful and supportive way. On an individual level, it shows Casey easily able to transition every night from straight husband to lithe female performer and back again. The challenge to his relationship is more from lying about it than actually cross-dressing, with even Jo admitting that Casey makes a beautiful woman.
Along the way, we are treated to an entertaining array of lip-synced song and dance numbers performed mostly by Tracy and Georgia dolled up in a variety of outfits ranging from slinky to over-the-top sequins and feathers (costumes by Kimberly DeShazo), with wigs (Anthony Gagliardi) and false eyelashes galore—including Georgia's campy Wonder Woman costume when performing Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero."
And they have plenty of room to move around on the bar’s performing stage, framed by lights (designed by Tyler Scrivner with lighting by Donna Ruzika), moving “backstage” by going through a curtain and reemerging after a makeup table and clothes rack are wheeled onto the stage by crew members.
However, that set movement might be less obtrusive if the crew were dressed entirely in black. A crew member also sometimes helps Casey with his makeup, but it’s not clear if he’s supposed to be a character (which would have been better) or an invisible helper. The set also has to convert periodically back to Casey and Jo’s apartment, with a couch as its most prominent feature, but that conversion sometimes feels disruptive.
Overall, though, the focus remains as it should on the talented performers—especially Nadalini and Sumner. Nadalini is amazingly natural as both Casey and Georgia, while Sumner never stops being fabulous as Tracy. Together, they are the heart of the story, allowing us feel the glamour and joy of performing in drag.
International City Theatre’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” continues through June 26 at the Beverly O’Neill Theater, 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach, with shows Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be a post-show talkback with the cast on Sunday, June 19. Tickets are $49 to $52 and can be purchased by calling (562) 436-4610 or visiting ICTLongBeach.org. Proof of vaccination and masks are required. Run time is two hours including a 15-minute intermission.