The hugely enjoyable Round House Theatre production “The Legend of Georgia McBride” offers two particular pleasures. One is the thrill of watching a novice drag queen find her feet (and matching stilettos) — about which, more later. The second is the delight of watching a drag queen who’s at the height of her glittery powers, a splashy number by Miss Tracy Mills being a case in point.
In Matthew Lopez’s comedy, Miss Tracy has arrived at Cleo’s, a run-down Florida bar that she intends to transform into a showcase for sequined extravaganzas. In an early sortie, she appears in a gleaming gold dress to interpret the disco version of the song “MacArthur Park.” As the lush orchestrations agitate, Miss Tracy struts, lip-syncs, vamps, spins and glares. Her fluttery wrist and finger movements form a halo around her body. She also incorporates some literal-minded mime: When the lyrics speak of rain, she holds out her hand to feel the falling drops. When the song mentions a cake recipe, she pulls a piece of paper from her bodice, rips it up, and frantically flings the scraps at the audience.
With Rick Hammerly channeling Miss Tracy, the number is screamingly funny — and it’s just one of numerous hilarious sequences in the production, directed by Tom Story. Adding to the feel-good quotient, the show’s drag-spectacular and backstage-drama scenes dovetail with a sweet if slightly creaky story about art, honesty, open-mindedness, and being true to oneself.
The tale follows Casey (a persuasive Zack Powell), a penniless soon-to-be-father, who is fired from his Elvis-impersonation act at Cleo’s when the bar’s redneck owner, Eddie (Charlie Kevin, priceless), decides drag will be more lucrative. When Miss Tracy’s colleague Rexy (Dezi Bing) is indisposed, Casey has to fill in. Piquant early moments show him, after initial awkwardness, discovering the sultry-chanteuse demeanor and gestures that will suit the Édith Piaf classic “Padam Padam.” Later, he discovers his alter ego: the honky-tonk-honed Georgia McBride.
Throughout the show, Matthew Gardiner’s choreography has the right flash and humor, and Frank Labovitz’s costumes are a riot. (One is a diva-as-leprechaun outfit, with a green boa.) Yesenia Iglesias is endearing as Casey’s long-suffering wife. But it is Hammerly’s Miss Tracy Mills who gives the production its brightest disco-ball sparkle.
Another newly opened play is also spinning a tale about appearance, integrity, gender norms and transformation. The latest production by the playwrights collective the Welders, Brett Abelman’s “Switch” tells of lovers Leila (Mary Myers) and Doug (Anderson Wells), who magically — and inadvertently — swap bodies during sex. Before attempting to reverse the transformation, each explores how much fun it is possible to have under the new conditions.
Megan Behm directs the production, which feels like a work-in-progress. The acting is often adequate, but not stellar: Myers and Wells do an okay job suggesting characters trapped in unaccustomed anatomies. As Leila and Doug’s genderqueer friend Lark, nonbinary performer Tyasia Velines is a vibrant but too-fidgety presence.
On a writing level, “Switch” feels under-polished. Some scenes drag; and Leila and Doug need fuller personalities and circumstances. Abelman does coin some good lines, though. At one point, Lark gripes that people who settle long term for stodgily traditional gender roles, and shun the full spectrum of possibilities, resemble “a talented pianist who uses their piano as a laundry rack.”
The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez. Directed by Tom Story; scenic design, Misha Kachman; lighting, Colin K. Bills; composer/sound designer, Matthew M. Nielson; props master, Kasey Hendricks. 2 hours. Tickets: $45-$65, with some discounts available. Through July 1 at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Hwy., Bethesda. roundhousetheatre.org or 240-644-1100. Switch by Brett Abelman. Directed by Megan Behm; produced by the Welders; original music and sound design, Sam Cooper; set, Brian Gillick; costumes, Moyenda Kulemeka; lighting, Elizabeth Roth; intimacy consultant, Emily Sucher. With Chloe Mikala and Matt Baughman. 2 hours. Tickets: $25. Through June 23 at Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE. thewelders.org.