Elvis has left the building — wearing a dress and high heels.
And now the most fabulous fictional drag queen in the South is coming to town in Cardinal Stage Company’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride. In this musically charged comedy, Casey, a failed Elvis impersonator and expecting father, is given a second chance when a drag show comes to town and introduces him to his true calling.
Apart from dazzling audiences with sequined jumpsuits and catchy tunes, Georgia McBride also illustrates how happiness can be found through the exploration of one’s self — and through learning to worry less about preconceived notions of normality. In a time when minority groups struggle for representation in popular media and Hollywood receives backlash for whitewashing casts, Cardinal Stage is on the forefront of celebrating diversity in race, sexual orientation, and gender.
Cardinal Stage’s success in Bloomington proves that the community openly embraces cultural diversity and seeks art that intentionally sets itself apart from the mainstream. The company’s ability to seamlessly integrate forward-thinking themes within its adaptations is a major reason why catching a show has become major attraction for visitors and locals alike.
The Merchant of Venice, which made a successful run this past fall with Cardinal Stage, featured an all-female cast in a play with predominantly male roles. Produced in association with the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences’ 2016 Themester on “Beauty,” the show challenged perceptions that certain roles are defined by gender, and proved that unfamiliar and progressive takes on classic material can be just as popular as the original.
Even though the misrepresentation of women in entertainment has been acknowledged for some time, they still have to fight many of the same battles. The Bechdel test, created to examine women’s roles in film and other fictional stories, has proven that many narratives don’t feature two women conversing about anything other than men — and, more recently, actresses (those who feel it won’t jeopardize their careers) have revealed they earn much less than their male co-stars.
Theater, while often applauded for its diversity, in reality fails to live up to the acclaim. A recent study about minority representation in New York theater by the Asian American Performers Action Coalition showed that African Americans were cast in only 17 percent of roles, with other minority groups appearing even less. The play Hamilton proved this doesn’t have to be the case, receiving high praise for casting African Americans and Latinx actors as America’s Founding Fathers.
And now, Cardinal Stage is bringing that Hamilton mindset to Bloomington, as The Legend of Georgia McBride features characters whose lives and voices are underrepresented in popular media, like the black drag queens played by Armand Fields and Aaron Holland.
After showing off their acting chops in plays all across the nation, Fields and Holland make their Cardinal Stage debuts as Rexy and Miss Tracy Mills. Bloomington newcomer Will Mobley, whose long list of credits around the country include plays like A Christmas Carol, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth, will take the stage as none other than Casey. Performing alongside this talented trio will be Cardinal Stage’s very own Mike Price as the vibrant Eddy, and Melody Louisdhon as Jo, Casey’s girlfriend. Joanie Shultz, the standout director based in Chicago, is directing.
Now in its 10th season, Cardinal Stage has proven that having a mission to produce high-quality, diverse productions can lead to success. And early ticket sales for Georgia McBride indicate that Cardinal Stage’s already impressive resume will only get stronger when it kicks off the spring season on February 3rd.