When a struggling Florida dive bar decides to change its image, Casey, an Elvis impersonator, finds himself broke and unemployed on the same day his girlfriend announces they are going to have a baby. So when a drag queen named Miss Tracy Mills is hired to create a drag show to replace his act, Casey is out of a job — or is he?
“The protagonist is introduced to the world of drag through a series of happenstances that he never planned upon that lead him on a journey to an authentic part of himself that he didn’t know, so there’s a beautiful metaphor there,” Gregory Ramos explains.
Amos is directing the Vermont Stage production of the “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” the 2014 comedy by Matthew Lopez, April 17-May 5 at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington.
“This play is a behind-the-scenes peek into the remarkable world of drag, and celebrates it in all of its glory,” said Cristina Alicea, the professional theater’s artistic director. “And for some of our constituents it will be their first time experiencing this art form. I’m thrilled we get to introduce them to it with this play.”
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” premiered at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in January 2014, and the production subsequently moved to the Off-Broadway MCC Theatre in New York City and the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
The plot follows Eddie, a passionate Elvis impersonator who is struggling to pay the bills and driving his girlfriend, Jo, nuts with his irresponsibility. Almost simultaneously, Jo announces she is pregnant and Eddie loses his Elvis job to a couple of drag queens. Eddie is demoted to bartender, but when one of the “ladies” passes out drunk, the boss offers him an opportunity — an ultimatum, actually.
What ensues is a life lesson for Eddie and Jo. Fortunately for the audience, it’s one heck of a ride and, if a bit corny, terribly funny and terribly touching.
“By definition, drag is larger than life,” Ramos said between rehearsals Tuesday. “Although it fits well within the plot, it’s saying something metaphorically about character and about identity thematically. There are wonderful moments in the play because they’re so fun and colorful.”
The comedy also upends notions of masculinity.
“There’s a masculinity in the character who plays the lead role and to see him take on a feminine persona is really very interesting — and very theatrical,” Ramos said.
In spite of its sexual exoticism, the plot is traditional.
“This is a character who learns that (despite) everything he dreamed of, he thought he wanted, the real goal that will have him land at home is the goal he had all along,” Ramos said.
The challenge of this play is to deliver very different kinds of emotions.
“On one hand, it needs to be dealt with like it’s a comedy,” Ramos said. “It needs to be broad; the comic timing needs to be there. And there are other moments that have to be very naturalistic and very tender between two of the characters.
“I think that’s the piece that is a challenge, really getting the emotional vibration right from moment to moment, and taking the audience clearly though the journey of the central character,” he said.
Tolerance is another big theme.
“You’ve got a protagonist who changes his opinion, not just of himself and what he’s capable of, but his opinion of people he would never, had it not been for a strange turn of fate, have ever encountered in his life — or wanted to encounter in his life,” Ramos said. “And he meets people who change his life beyond measure for the better.”
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” is comedy and aimed at delivering a good time, but it’s more.
“I hope people take away an understanding of the notion that we are all just people who are searching for our true authentic selves and our true authentic relationships,” Ramos said.