THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE – Written by Matthew Lopez; Directed by Troy Lakey.  Produced by Vintage Theatre Productions (1468 Dayton St, Aurora) through March 24.  Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or 

The prolific Matthew Lopez strikes again.  Denver has enjoyed performances of his scripts before and now has yet another chance to take one in. Just to give you a taste of the versatility of Mr. Lopez and his creative mind, let’s look at his output so far.  THE WHIPPING MAN follows two slaves after the Civil War who have been taking care of the family plantation to have one of the sons return and assume he can take over again.  SOMEWHERE follows a Latinx family in the wake of WEST SIDE STORY who believe the future of their young people lives in dance. REVERBERATION creates a tentative recovery story between a shell-shocked soldier and the woman who moves into the apartment above him.  KING CHARLES III imagines what he thought would happen when Queen Elizabeth passes away and her unprepared son is forced to take the crown.  Don’t even get me started on the brilliance that was THE INHERITANCE, given such a fine production at Vintage last year. And then we have THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA McBRIDE, the current offering at Vintage Theatre. 

GEORGIA follows perhaps the strangest path of all.  A tale about a reluctant entertainer forced by financial demands to abandon his sparkly white Elvis jumpsuit and adopt female spangles as a drag queen at a roadside cabaret in Panama City, Florida, Lopez’s hometown.  He is coached by Miss Tracy Mills, an experienced Queen who takes pity on him and his panic-stricken incredulity at finding himself in this situation.  His wife is pregnant, his boss at the roadhouse doesn’t want Elvis any longer, and there only seems to be one answer in his come-to-Jesus moment.  Learn to be a Queen. 

The journey is not without its bumps (and grinds) but he’s diligent and determined as a new daddy-to-be can be.  What is hard and humiliating for Casey, our intrepid hero, is funny for the audiences as we watch him struggle through his early attempts to learn the songs of Edith Piaf and the moves of the Spice Girls.  He (and the audience) learn along the way not to judge by appearances the mettle of a person, that clothes don’t necessarily make a man (or a woman) and that you are braver than you think you are when the firing squad is loading their rifles. 

This production takes a supreme Mama Queen to assume the role of mentor to the Princess wannabe.  They have found it in Stuart Sanks, himself a gifted actor in straight (no pun intended) plays and an experienced Drag performer known professionally as Miss Shirley Delta Blow at brunches, bingos, and book-readings.  Stuart has this role in his bones; he knows exactly what needs to be said and how to say it.  His flippancy with the situation and life in general provides much of the humor and much of the heart.  At long last, Stuart is getting a chance to let the world see him shine.  You’re gonna want to be a part of this. 

Casey, the new entry on the drag stage is played by Matthew Combs, who originally seems as ill at ease at donning a sequined costume as Casey himself.  An excellent lip sync artist, Matthew gives it his all as Casey works to become worthy of Georgia McBride, his made-up name for his brand-new character.  Once he commits, he tackles the role of Georgia together with the helpful Tracy, never looking back.  There are some men that, while good-looking as a man, don’t really fit the mold of a pretty woman, no matter how hard they try.  Matthew fits that category; while he is a handsome man, even in the most glamourous outfit, he would never pass for a woman. His lip syncing, however, is flawless and he moves well in high heels. 

The remaining characters all assist Casey – eventually – in recognizing his feminine side and encouraging his desire to perform. Atlas Drake plays Jo, his pregnant wife who remains in the dark about his new sideline for quite a while. Clark Jones doubles in roles as his landlord/next door neighbor and the other dancer in the act who has a whole different set of problems to deal with. Matt Hindmarch does a delightful job with the sympathetic but down-to-earth businessman who owns the bar in which they perform. His ultimatum to Casey is what starts the whole crooked drag race.  

The technical crew at Vintage has outdone itself in creating the swift and easy movement from Casey and Jo’s living room to the backstage dressing room for the “girls.” Walls that turn with ease allow scene changes to progress quickly and silently. Just when you think a set problem is going to be unsolvable, Ryan Walkoviak steps up and says, “I have an idea,” which Master Builder Jeff Jesmer and his crew of Bernie Richard, Don Fuller and Mega Davis complete. The whole “can do” attitude of these designers and crew made the completed production a wonder to behold. From the costumes by Cole Emarine to the bountiful music provided by Jessica Jewell and Alec Michael Powell to the two or three dressers back stage that get the actors in and out of their complicated costumes in record time – You better believe [they] “work hard for the money, so hard for it, Honey, so you better treat [them] right.”  Troy Lakey, the director, took on this project as a labor of love and it shows.

A wow factor of 8.5! 

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