A Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Fun

Casey, an Elvis impersonator, loses his performing job at a Panama City nightclub just as he learns he is about to become a father.  In a twist of fate, he suddenly has to sub for one of the drag queens in the act that replaced him and learns that he not only has a knack for this performance style, but that it can pay really well, too.  Determined to provide for his family, Casey forges The Legend of Georgia McBride and it is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

When I was asked to review this show, I cocked an eyebrow at the synopsis as I wasn’t certain how much mileage could be gotten out of the joke of a drag queen Elvis.  Turns out it was quite a bit as this show flies.  Matthew Lopez has written one of the best comedies I’ve seen as it truly made me laugh out loud with jokes and one-liners I never saw coming, but also has sensitivity and depth with several moving, heart-wrenching moments. 

OCP’s new Associate Artistic Director, Brady D. Patsy, has a fabulous directorial debut with this production.  Patsy has a firm grip on the beat changes of this story which is especially impressive as it often slides from over the top hilarity to raw, heart attack seriousness, sometimes within the span of a few beats.  Patsy does some impressive staging with Jim Othuse’s unique three pronged set (1/3 being the club’s dressing room, 1/3 being the club’s stage, and the other 1/3 being the apartment of Casey and his wife, Jo) as he makes use of each tiny space in such a way that it never feels bunched up or cramped.  Patsy has also led his thespians to platinum performances with nary a weak link in the group.

The show has some singular supporting performances from Dennis Collins as the prickly club owner/manager whose awkward introductions improve as the influx of money into the club increases.  Olivia Howard shines as Ryan’s wife, Jo, the level headed partner who justly frets about the lack of income to cover their living costs, especially with their incoming arrival.  Brock McCullough generates laughs as the soused Anorexia Nervosa whose passion for booze matches her inflated ego, but McCullough also gets one of the most devastating moments of a night with a monologue about true bravery in the face of prejudice.  Giovanni Rivera is a delight as the slightly nerdy best friend of Casey.

Ryan Figgins has one incredible acting debut as Casey.  Figgins has some fine instincts, a sincere delivery, and the guts to just dive into a role.  Figgins gives Casey a very decent nature and a slight immaturity as he’s a big kid who hasn’t fully adapted to adult responsibilities with his obliviousness to the family finances.  But when the pressure is on, he rises to the occasion as he’s willing to become a drag queen to pay the bills.  Figgins has phenomenal facial expressions from his heart in this throat looks when he does his first Edith Piaf number to his extreme confidence once he’s formed the identity of Georgia McBride.  Figgins also has a fine tenor voice with his song “Lost and Found”.  Figgins just needs to be a little louder in his more serious moments and to move the fingers on his left hand when he is playing the guitar to show chord changes.

Ryan Eberhart just eats the role of Miss Tracy Mills.  He is so theatrical and fits the larger than life nature of Mills to a T.  His mentoring of Casey in the art of drag queening are hilarious, but Eberhart is also capable of some serious acting such as when his Mills teaches Casey an important life lesson of figuring out who you are and hopefully to figure it out faster than she did (though Mills is enjoying the third 20 years of her life).

Jim Othuse’s lights help to enhance the show especially with the sometimes failing Cleo’s sign.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes are top of the line especially with the gowns and dresses of the drag queens and Casey’s Elvis costumes.  John Gibilisco’s sounds really suit the mood of the show from the use of Elvis numbers for the scene changes and the songs used in the revue scenes.  Roderick Cotton’s choreography help the realism of the revue scenes and make for a very entertaining curtain call.

If you’re looking for a laugh filled night that will put a squeeze on your heart at the same time, then go see The Legend of Georgia McBride.  It’ll cure what ails you.

The Legend of Georgia McBride runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Sept 18.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $36 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. Due to adult language and themes, this show is not suitable for children. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.