Grab Your Pearls & Do Some Twirls as Georgia McBride Invades Milwaukee
As a Cream City drag queen, I was bubbling with excitement when I heard Mathew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride was part of Milwaukee Rep’s 2019/20 lineup. After decades of doing drag (did I just say “decades?” Oh, my!), the thought of this comedy gracing Brew Town had me over the moon. While Milwaukee’s theater scene is hardly scarce where big-boned, high-heeled performers are concerned, this production of The Legend of Georgia McBride may be the crowning jewel in the city’s tiara.
After all, we’re lucky to have a show by Lopez playing in Milwaukee. The playwright is hot now, earning numerous awards and accolades for his current sensation, The Inheritance. The two-part epic is currently playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. He wrote the comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride just a few years prior.
The story of The Legend... involves Casey, a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator who clumsily finds himself in the middle of a honky-tonk drag show. When Casey discovers he has a baby on the way and is about to be evicted, he dives wig-first into the world of drag as diva Georgia McBride.
“Milwaukee has an awesome drag community,” says the show’s director, Meredith McDonough. “I’ve spent a lot time talking to drag queens in Milwaukee, and I’m so excited to be working with that community.” McDonough kept her interest in drag at the forefront when casting. “I wanted to cast people who also perform drag,” she explained. “I wanted drag queens who were also actors.”
McDonough found the perfect fit for the role of Casey/Georgia in Kevin Kantor. “Kevin and I had a lot of exciting conversations around the role of Casey,” she explains. “Because I wanted an actor with a lot of drag experience, we’re able to use Kevin to really focus on the character as an incredible queen.”
Rep audiences might recognize Kevin Kantor from last season’s Things I Know to Be True. “That was my first time working in Milwaukee,” Kantor says. “I fell in love with Milwaukee Rep and the community that supports it.”
Having previously played other roles in The Legend of Georgia McBride, Kantor is ready to hit the boards running. “I am thrilled to be stepping into Georgia’s heels for the first time,” Kantor says. “Casey has such a wonderful arc of self-discovery and expression, and it’s one that I deeply identify with as someone who has found a lot of myself through modes of queer art and expression.”
If that’s not quite enough drag for you, McDonough has another surprise up her sequined sleeve. “This production has three drag queens among the cast in addition to a drag-queen costume designer,” she adds. McDonough is talking about designer Patrick Holt, better known as Tempest DuJour from Season 7 of the reality drag competition RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“Patrick created glorious old-school camp-queen pieces as well as more contemporary costumes,” McDonough explains. “The costumes demonstrate the different aspects of drag, giving the audience the spectrum of what drag is and can do.”
“We all have something to learn from by embracing queer art forms,” Kantor adds. “What I love about this show is that, at its heart, it is about joy. It asks us all to take a seat at the table; that there truly is room for everyone in the celebration of what might be considered a niche art form.”
McDonough agrees. “It’s beautiful to come together as an audience and celebrate one another,” she says. “The play is about a community that wants to lift everyone up and say, ‘I’ve got your back and I want to help you be you.’”
How might this play affect the drag community in Milwaukee? Kantor has a request of the city. “I hope this show makes theatergoers realize that they are lovers of drag. Drag, like all art forms, is deserving of our patronage and support,” Kantor notes. “Come see The Legend of Georgia McBride, and then, support your local drag scene, dollars in hand. I promise you, if you are a lover of the theatre, whether you know it or not, you will be a lover of drag.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my keester to the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater to check out this delightful comedy. Keep in mind that The Legend of Georgia McBride runs January 14 through February 9, 2020, so hurry over to www.MilwaukeeRep.com for your tickets, and I’ll see you at the show!
Dear Ruthie has a been a saucy staple on Wisconsin stages for 25 years. Currently a columnist for Shepherd Express, her reality show, Camp Wannakiki, can be seen on YouTube. Ruthie’s cabaret revue, An Evening with Joan Rivers & Friends, runs regularly at the Saint Kate Arts Hotel. Follower her on Facebook (Dear Ruthie) and Instagram @RuthieKeester