Stages Theater Explores Two Different Perspectives of Drag in Drag Wonderettes and The Legend of Georgia McBride

Sean Patrick Judge in The Legend of Georgia McBride
Sean Patrick Judge in The Legend of Georgia McBride Photo by Melissa Taylor

On one stage, four men will be singing, dancing and walking in heels, only one of whom has worked in drag as a career before. On another stage, it's the story of a straight guy who becomes a drag performer out of need and learns to love the art form.

Through early July, Stages theater will be offering in repertory The Legend of Georgia McBride and Drag Wonderettes (a reworking by playwright Roger Bean of his original The Marvelous Wonderettes performed by women) in an exploration and celebration of all that drag performance can mean.

D.L. Groover called Georgia McBride "a delight" and a chance "to experience drag with a sweet rom-con vengeance" in his recent Houston Press review. It's the story of straight Casey (Jeremy Gee) , who's just been fired as an Elvis impersonator, who takes the job as a drag performer out of desperation. He finds out he likes it, does it pretty well and grows up in the process.

As for Drag Wonderettes, Associate Artistic Director of Stages, Mitchell Greco, who is directing the musical, said playwright Bean contacted Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin telling him he'd had a lot of requests to do the original show in drag, wanted to make sure it was done in a thoughtful way and asked if Stages would be interested in doing this new hybrid version of the Wonderettes.

"Kenn saw it as a really interesting and fun opportunity to explore two different perspectives of drag. In Georgia McBride what does it mean for the masculine to embrace this femininity  in the artifice of drag and in Drag Wonderettes it's the flip side. It's celebrating the femininity and embracing it already and how friendship and love transcends community.

"The original show is about the power of friendship and love and music and how that reads in a drag community when to a large extent in the queer community we have found families and found communities that we make our own. How that translates with that lens on it was something that was really interesting to him," Greco said.

The same '50s and '60s hit songs are there, in a musical now re-imagined as a high drag performance. Austin Colburn who plays Cindy Lou is the actor in the four member cast with the most experience in drag, Greco  said. Other cast members include Mark Ivy as Suzy, Marco Camacho as Betty Jean and John Ryan Del Bosque as Missy.

Whereas in the original, the Wonderettes, the high school's Songleader Squad, are called on at the last minute to perform at the high school prom, in the updated version, it’s now become a show within a show, he said.

"The story is, the House of Amanda is putting on a production of The Marvelous Wonderettes at the  Elks Lodge and they're performing the show and several times through the show the plot of the drag queens bleeds in and out. I think what people will find that it is beyond entertaining, that it is moving and wildly funny and impressive and such a joy."

The primary criteria they were looking for in open auditions wasn't whether someone was willing to perform in drag — that was a given thanks to the script — but whether the actors could sing, dance and act in a show that requires them to be on stage constantly, Greco said. 

"This show still requires a high level of skills across the board. It [has] incredibly difficult four-part harmonies. It's  sung throughout.  It's a lot of singing; it's a lot of dancing; it's a lot of comedy. And on top of all of that they do it in drag which is this whole other art form."

There was a make-up tutorial and time set aside to practice their drag make-up technique as well as the rehearsal sessions, Greco said. "They're really not used to walking in heels so it was a real process."

Greco thinks the Stages audiences will be receptive to the new version. "I think they will be wildly entertained. It's magic. I think they'll experience magic when they see it.:

Drag Wonderettes is scheduled for May 19-July 2 with previews May 19-24 at 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Stages,  600 Rosine. For more information, call 713-527-0123 or visit $30-$84.

The Legend of Georgia McBride continues through July 2 at 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Stages, 600 Rosine. For more information, call 713-527-0123 or visit $30-$84.
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