by Rachele Stoops
“Drag is not for sissies,” Rexy (Clayton Edward) tells Casey (Colin Sphar) in The Legend of Georgia McBride, now playing in the Johnny Carson Theater. Putting on this show isn’t for sissies, either.
The opening production of the Nebraska Rep also leads off the events of LGBTQA+ History Month at UNL, appropriately titled, ‘Be You’.
If you’ve been to a show in the Johnny Carson Theater, you won’t recognize the space as it’s staged for Georgia. The two main acting spaces are across from each other; one, a realistic interior house set with an attached front porch, and the other, the front of Clio’s, the dive bar where the performances take place, and the dressing room. The space in between is filled with cafe tables and stools, which are occupied by audience members. The audience for the play becomes the audience for Clio’s, with the help of some ensemble members to get things going.
The story begins with Casey, a 20-something small town boy, who is married to Jo (Elaine Stueve), a waitress who carries the burdens of adulthood squarely on her shoulders. Casey contributes by putting on an Elvis lip sync impersonation at the aforementioned Clio’s. His meager tips barely cover pizza, much less rent.
When Casey and Jo get some unexpected news, Casey resolves to increase his tip money as Elvis, but is displaced by a new act at Clio’s: drag, in the form of Miss Tracy and Rexy, played brilliantly by Ty Perry and Clayton Edward. Casey gets thrown into the show at the last minute, and the legend – Georgia McBride, that is – is born.
The show is a huge undertaking, and the actors move almost seamlessly from one acting space to the other. The ensemble members come out in character to help Casey change costumes and to redress the set, which adds to the experience. (Make sure to stay for the final drag performance that includes the ensemble!)
The show is set in the present, according to the program, but I did wonder what ‘present’ it was supposed to be, when no one at Clio’s seemed to have cell service to take photos or videos, and the costumes could have represented almost any decade of the past three.
Ty Perry as Miss Tracy Mills was rock solid, moving and speaking with grace and authority. Drag Queen Rexy stole every scene she was in (that fan snap!), which was particularly impressive considering Clayton Edwards also played Casey’s friend Jason, whose reminiscence about his ex, Fiona, was surprising and touching.
Assistant Director Christa Retka informed the audience that the play was ninety minutes long, with no intermission, but it was actually closer to 110 minutes. Some of those minutes could be recovered if the timing was tightened up, especially in the scenes between Casey and Jo.
As Casey, Sphar is at times goofy and at others introspective, but his struggle to find and accept himself is appropriate for LGBTQA+ History Month and for every month.
Now, as Miss Tracy says, I’m going to go enjoy my third twenty years.
If you go: Remaining performances of The Legend of Georgia McBride are October 3-4, 8-12 at 7:30pm and October 6, 12, and 13 at 2:00pm. All performances are at the Johnny Carson Theatre on the west side of the Lied Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are available online, at the Lied Center box office, and at the door if available.
Rachele Stoops is an English and Theatre teacher at Bryan Community Focus Program, and is on the board of the Nebraska Association of Community Theatres. She has three fantastic almost-grown-up offspring, and a chihuahua named Cecil. Rachele is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Research through Doane University. In her spare time, she enjoys karaoke, baking, and talking about how busy she is.
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