“The Full Monty” meets “The Birdcage” in the Springfield-area premiere—indeed, the statewide premiere—of the music-filled comedy about singing your own song, “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” It opens tonight (Nov.30) at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza, corner of Robberson & Pershing downtown. The cast features Christina Gardner, Mark Gideon, Lavelle Johnston, Roland Netzer and Jon Sidoli. Mark Gideon and director Rick Dines joined us on KSMU’s “Arts News.”
Rick Dines describes the lead character, Casey, as “a sweet young guy, he’s been working at this dive bar in Panama City, Florida as an Elvis impersonator for small, meagre crowds”—and, we might add, a small, meagre paycheck. “But it’s his passion. And he finds out at this point in time that his wife’s pregnant, and they’ve bounced the rent check and are in danger of being evicted.” But that’s not all. “The bar is cancelling his Elvis act because it’s just not bringing in enough people. The bar owner has decided to bring in his cousin (to replace Casey as the lead performer at the bar). And lo and behold, on the scene arrives ‘Miss Tracy Mills’, the legendary B-level drag queen!”
Mark Gideon plays the drag-queen cousin of the bar owner. “Oh, and she is so much fun!” he laughs. “Tracy is a role of a lifetime for me. She is campy and fun, and has great lines, and it’s just a joy to play this part.”
Casey stays on at the joint as a bartender—he desperately needs the money. “Then one night,” says director Rick Dines, “Tracy’s sidekick in crime, Rexy, has a drunken backstage roller-skating accident.” The show must go on, and “Casey adopts a sort of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’” attitude “and... learns some new skills,” Dines tells us—skills he doesn’t necessarily WANT to learn, but “desperate times call for desperate measures.” And he has to acquire these new performing skills “Very quickly!” adds Mark Gideon. “And from there a star is born!”
Rick Dines calls Matthew Lopez “a wonderful, award-winning playwright. (The play) debuted in Denver originally, and then played New York two, two and a half years ago—and has become one of the most popular, most-produced regional pieces of the last year and a half. And we’re actually the Missouri premiere of it—it’s being done other places (in the state) later in the season.”
Mark Gideon ordered a copy of the “Georgia McBride” script as soon as he heard of the show. “I was reading it at home, and I’m laughing out loud!” (Always a good sign.) “If a show reads funny, you know when you get it onstage it will be hilarious.” Rick Dines first saw a production out in the San Francisco Bay Area a little more than a year ago. “And it was one of the funniest plays I’d seen in years! And I was like, ‘this—we have to do it!’ It’s just a crowd-pleaser from stem to stern. Somebody asked me about it the other day. I said it really is kind of the child of the Neil Simon comedies, because it just crackles with that kind of one-liner wit, and at the same time is a very well-structured, very well-written comedy with a lot of heart.”
Actor Mark Gideon (“Tracy Mills”) calls Dines’ production—and the intimate setting of SCT Center Stage—“the perfect setting for this show. The audience will really feel like they’re in the club, Cleo’s, a bar on the beach in Florida. Because, especially when we’re doing our drag numbers, we REALLY play to the audience—so much that they may be going ‘oh, dear—she’s right here on my lap!’”
The cast includes Roland Netzer as Casey—“who becomes ‘Georgia McBride’.” (Dines doesn’t seem to mind letting that spoiler-alert slip out—“that becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly,” he says.) Lavelle Johnson is double-cast as Rexy, as well as portraying Jason, Casey’s best friend from high school and current landlord. Christina Gardner plays Casey’s wife Jo. Jon Sidoli is Eddie, the bar owner with the drag-queen cousin (played by Mark Gideon, as we said).
Opening night is Friday Nov.30, and performances will run Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm through December 16. There will be two "Pay What You Can" Thursdays for this production on December 6 and 13. Talkback sessions with Rick Dines and the cast will be offered after the Thursday Dec. 6 and Sunday Dec. 9 performances. And as always, Dines notes that there are complimentary post-curtain receptions following the first shows, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. “The cast will be out to chit-chat and have wine and snacks” with the audience—which, it was agreed, will be well-deserved by the cast!
Both Dines and Gideon call the show “110 very fast and furious minutes”, with no intermission—“and in some people’s case,” adds Dines, indicating Gideon, “18 costume changes... and nine wigs... and I don’t know how many pairs of shoes, in those 110 minutes! For a five-person play, there are more costumes and wigs than in most musicals we produce.” “If you see backstage you’ll think, ‘how many people are IN this show?!” says Gideon.” “There are tables and tables of just wigs backstage, just to get through the show,” adds Rick Dines.
Tickets range from $22-$27 and are available at www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org or by calling 831-8001.