Tuesday February 20th 2018

“The Legend of Georgia McBride”

Highly Recommended ***** The Chicago theater scene has another Chicago Premiere that is something very special! The play is “The Legend of Georgia McBride” written by Matthew Lopez, telling the story of a down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator ( and aren’t they all?) working at a Florida “Panhandle” tavern that is faced with financial problems as well. The owner, Eddie ( the always reliable Keith Kupferer, who appears to be having an absolute ball with this production) in order to stay open, allows his cousin to bring a new type of show to the bar, one the likes of this town has never seen before. A “Drag” show!

When Miss Tracy Mills ( an absolute perfect character brought to the stage by Sean Blake) arrives with her/his show, he/she brings with him/her Rexy (Jeff Kurysz is outstanding in handling this as well as Jason, a local roofer). Rexy has a drinking problem and when he/she gets soused one night, our hero, Casey ( played to perfection by Nate Santana) who has gone from doing Elvis to tending bar is forced to go onstage in his place, in drag, or lose his job. He is in great financial stress falling way behind on his rent, so with the assistance of  Miss Tracy, he goes on, gets the applause he never got as Elvis and finds that his income is on the rise.

While all seems to be leading towards that “happy ending”, turns out that Casey has neglected to let his wife, Jo ( the adorable Leslie Ann Sheppard) know about the little change in his career path. On top of all their others financial needs, she is pregnant, so money is even of greater importance than previously. It is theater companies like Northlight that are willing to take chances on bringing us works that will rock our boat, and they do it with great style. Smoothly directed by Lauren Shouse, who uses the small open stage at Northlight to sheer perfection, this 105 minute (no intermission) play tells us a story that will make you think how an “outsider” ( defined as someone “different”) can bring people who are different together.

Lopez, has been backstage and watched the transformation from man to woman, and in this play, shows us in a comical way, that straight or Gay, if you want to do it, you can do it. Casey, a married man who was active in his High School plays, and wanted to entertain ( as Elvis) all his life, finds that once taking on his Drag “persona” and finding the fans loving “her” that he can do this with no regrets, with the exception of not telling his wife. The show is filled with music and dance, laughs galore and a sort of inside look at the making of a “drag Queen”- ! Watching Santana’s transformation led by the skilled and very expert Blake, is an adventure in theater that is worth the price of a ticket , alone. But this play is so much more!

The intimacy of Northlight puts us very close to the action and when they do the “Drag” shows, they even play with many of the audience members, making it even more fun. This is one of those shows where the actors have as much fun as the audience (I think Kupferer, even more so )! The tech people have done an outstanding job, starting from the set (Richard and Jaqueline Penrod) that has walls and curtains that change from club to backstage, to Casey and Jo’s apartment with great ease, to the lighting (JR Lederle) and sound ( Kevin O’Donnell), but the costumes (Rachel Laritz) wigs ( Penny Lane Studios- WOW!) and props Bronte DeShong) are amazing. Well done! There is a spotlight operator (Selma Muminovic) who never misses a beat and the choregraphy by Chris Carter , very cute and even sexy!

While this production is definitely a FEEL-GOOD entertainment experience, if you really look at the overall story and the characters, you can see that there messages in this play as well. Lopez looks at some of what society is watching closely today; the gender identity issues, the LGBTQ situations, diversity issues, family issues and even extended families. He uses charm and builds characters that are comical, but yet, real! I know there are people who steer away from this type of entertainment, but, from my heart, I tell you, this is worth seeing and will not in any way affect your life or that of anyone in your family, except to show you that love comes in many ways and packages, and that we should all open our hearts and minds to the world as it is (not as it was)!

You only have until October 22nd to see this worthwhile production, now playing at The Northlight Theatre, located at 9501 Skokie Blvd. (just South of Golf Road/Old Orchard Center) in Skokie, with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.   (October  17th only)

Wednesdays  1 p.m. (except 10/11) and 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8:00 p.m

Saturdays  2:30 p.m.  and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2:30 p.m.  and 7 p.m. October 8th ONLY)

Tickets from $30- $81 and can be ordered by calling 847-673-6300, by visiting the box office(Mon-Fro. 10 am-5 pm, Saturday noon- 5) or online at www.Northlight.org

There is a special event on October 5th from 2-3 p.m. at Evanston Public Library located at 1703 N. Orrington Street exploring the context of the play.

Plenty of free parking at Northlight

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Legend of Georgia McBride”

Put this one on your MUST SEE list!

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