May O’Nays in Anita Do-Over. Photo: Drag Daddy
Written by May O’Nays and Eric Sharp
Directed by Eric Sharp
A review by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2023, by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Oh, Anita Bryant. I haven’t given her a thought in years. Who has?
Once America’s darling, a chart-topping singing sensation and beauty pageant winner, and the poster girl for Florida’s Citrus Commission. She had everything going her way and was an international star.
Then she threw it away to become the face of anti-gay bigotry and persecution. A fundamentalist Christian, she used her notoriety to start one of the biggest conservative movements against LGBTQ+ rights in America’s history. She won the initial battle, overturning laws against discrimination due to sexual orientation, but it cost her a career. She became a national punchline, causing boycotts against the products she represented and even famously getting a pie in the face during a television interview. She lost her endorsement contracts and faded into obscurity over the years. Celebrities ridiculed her; even a normally non-political Vincent Price quoted Oscar Wilde referring to her as “a woman of no importance.”
But, at 82, she’s come back into the news in recent months. Ironically, her granddaughter has come out as lesbian and has publicly stated she can’t decide whether to invite Anita to her upcoming wedding.
That’s too good of a story not to be satirized, and that is just what is happening locally. Local drag performer May O’Nays has created a quite funny homage to all the drama the story entails, in a solo production called Anita Makeover.
May and her co-writer Eric Sharp have created an Anita Bryant who is outwardly contrite about those days, whether you believe her or not (I don’t, LOL), and is trying to earn an invite to her granddaughter’s wedding. Through an evening of lip-synch drag performance, actual singing, and visual projections of real news footage, we get a real insight into the forgotten history of Bryant’s story. It’s fascinating to behold.
The performance is everything it should be: over the top, silly, and not to be taken too seriously. I was witness to a workshop performance, so much may change before the actual opening night, but May’s characterization was spot-on. She doesn’t quite resemble the real Anita Bryant, but her hair and makeup sell the personification. I think she relied a bit too much on a teleprompter (it was pretty obvious when she was reading from it) but that’s probably due to it being still workshopped. It was slightly distracting but understandable.
The audience participation aspects were fun (leading to a hilarious but messy finale) and the writing was very clever. The effects (especially the projections) were handled well.
A fun evening, benefitting from a short run time keeping it from overstaying its welcome.
March 17-21, 2021
Drag Daddy Productions
1101 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 14 years. In June 2019 he launched a new company with Jeremy Guiterrez, Theatre Reprise. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.