Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury: Artistic Director Semina De Laurentis took the opening night audience of “The Legend of Georgia McBride” by surprise in her pre-curtain speech. Announcing that this play is currently one of the most popular plays in America, she added that it is not a typical play choice for this theater. She was right about that. It’s not the usual comedy, drama, or musical. It’s not as safe as a Neil Simon comedy. It is a rare and wonderful cutting edge musical that tickles the funny bone while touching your heart. From the audience response, cutting edge theater is very well liked right here in Waterbury. It’s time to check out the transformative power of Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride.”

Though the lip-syncing musical begins with Casey flaunting his new Elvis impersonator costume, the story really begins when Casey steps in for a drag queen who collapses in a drunken stupor. Here is a scene that audiences will remember for many years to come because a straight married man suddenly needs to dress and act like a woman. From the moment he strips down to his underwear to the lesson of how to put on panty hose, butt pads and a bra, he tells himself it’s just a costume. He has acted before and this is just a one-time performance that turns into another and then another. It’s very profitable and he soon as a following. He hasn’t told his wife. Perhaps he is ashamed to tell her. However, he soon learns there’s a lot more to being a drag queen than a wig and a fancy dress.

Jared Reinfeldt plays Casey as a typical guy who loves his wife, drinks beer with his buddies and writes love songs on his guitar. Reinfeldt lip-syncs Elvis numbers so closely at first that you really have to wonder whether he is singing or not. When he starts singing in French with the hilarious advice of his mentoring co-star drag queen Miss Tracy Mills, the fun factor rises throughout the entire Seven Angels house. Reinfeldt’s performance is absolutely genuine.

So, too, John Salvatore’s Miss Tracey is hard to beat as a most realistic drag queen. So convincing is his performance as Cher or Dolly Parton that’s it’s difficult to imagine him playing a straight role. Brittany-Laurelle as Casey’s wife Jo is like the neighbor we all know and like so well. Her emotions run high as she plays a mother-to-be, but Brittany-Laurelle definitely looks like she’s in love and she sure seems shocked to discover her husband’s new occupation as the celebrated Georgia McBride.

Eddie Shields plays a double role and they are not at all alike. It seems nearly impossible that any man could play landlord Jason looking for the rent and then stepping into the spike heels of Rexy. Shields is simply amazing. Scott Kealey rounds off this totally talented cast as the owner of the bar who is delighted to see his business become “the” place to be.

Russell Garrett directs and choreographs this production with equal amounts of humor and heart and it shows from start to finish. Kyle Dixon creates an appropriately grungy scenic design, while Lloyd Hall come off with some wild costumes. Doug Macur designed the lights and Matt Martin designed the sound.

This is not the first time that Seven Angels has done cutting edge productions. “Next to Normal” was a whopping success as well as others. This theater will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year and it’s great to know that the audiences that frequent this theater are willing to take risks, too. Yes, the young and hip will come, but it’s a play for all adults. This is a full five-star production that will quickly become one of your all-time favorites. It plays through Dec. 1. Box office: 203-757-4676.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: