BWW Reviews: PAGEANT Wins For Congeniality
I can't quite recall if Pageant was considered especially edgy or unconventional when it first trod upon Gotham boards in 1991. This was, after all, several seasons after La Cage aux Folles pushed musical comedy drag onto mainstream Broadway.
Twenty-three years later bookwriter/lyricists Frank Kelly and Bill Russell and composer Albert Evans' gentle spoofing of beauty crowns and the women who compete for them is probably exactly what most 21st Century playgoers would expect to find when attending a drag show beauty pageant. The smarmy host, the campy jokes, the light sexual innuendo, the questionable displays of talent and, of course, the parade of well-sculpted males looking fabu and feminine in a parade evening gowns, swimsuits and sporty wear are all included.
And if the satirical darts feel more like love taps, director Matt Lenz and his charismatic cast help provide a pleasing ninety minutes of good, clean fun.
Plastic-grinned John Bolton plays the dashing host of the annual Miss Glamouresse Pageant; essentially a commercial for the Glamouresse line of beauty products. Along with traditional competitions like swimsuits, evening gowns and talent, contestants are also required to show off their spokesmodeling skills and staff a hotline to help desperate customers in need of solutions to their beauty emergencies.
The six beauties vying for the crown include Miss West Coast (Seth Tucker), Miss Great Plains (Nick Cearley), Miss Bible Belt (Curtis Wiley), Miss Texas (Alex Ringler), Miss Deep South (Marty Thomas) and Miss Industrial Northeast (Nic Corey), each character embodying the most common comical stereotypes of her region.
Though the score, a pastiche of the cheery, positive-energy tunes generally written for such spectacles, has the ladies describing themselves as "natural born females" and the host crooning "you've got it all, plus something extra," most of the evening's humor is aimed at traditional pageant issues such as fashion faux pas (a beige evening gown) and oddball talent entries (a Martha Graham-inspired dance piece).
Five audience members are selected as judges who rate each finalist on a scale of one to ten in order to pick the winner, but on the night I attended it seemed a fix was on, making the ending a bit confusing.
Pageant is never quite sharp or funny enough to rise above being more than silly and likeable, but then, they do give out prizes for congeniality.