KPBS AIRDATE: March 15, 2002
It’s got taffeta, tears and tiaras. Big hair, hot talent. And beautiful babes. Nope, it isn’t “Beehive,” but you’d be hard-pressed to tell those gals from these without the proverbial scorecard. In fact, some audience members even do get a scorecard — to vote on the evening’s winner: Miss Glamouresse of 2002. It’s wild, it’s musical, it’s outrageous — it’s “Pageant.”
It ran for 18 months Off Broadway. And one of the original cast members, the adorable Russell Garrett, is here at North Coast Repertory Theatre to direct. Yup, you heard right. These gorgeous gals… are all guys. But “Pageant” isn’t a campy drag show. All of the six actors are playing it totally straight — so to speak. The show is a laugh-a-minute spoof of every beauty contest you’ve ever seen — but each of these contestants has, as one song puts it, “a little something extra.”
There is the requisite evening gown competition, of course — the glorious costumes are from the original production — and there’s also a swimsuit competition, not to mention a wide display of talent as well as hilarious promotions for Glamouresse products such as facial spackle, solar-powered hair rollers and roast beef-flavored lipstick. There’s also a goofy outer space trip to Venus (with the usual Uranus jokes) and the also-unnecessary contestant responses to the Beauty Crisis Hotline.
The ensemble is breath-taking, in every way. They look great, for one, and some of them are truly talented. David Brannen has evangelical zeal as Miss Bible Belt, with a million-dollar smile and a priceless song, “Bankin’ on Jesus.” James Vasquez is a hoot as the ditsy Miss West Coast, who performs an Isadora Duncan-like interpretive dance — partly on pointe. But the highlight of the evening is when one of the most beautiful girls of all, Miss Deep South, aka David McBean, stops the action and steals the show with an incredible ventriloquist act, singing in three voices, in three vocal ranges, in Southern dialect, at breakneck speed. As the smarmy, sleazy, lounge-lizard MC, Don Ward is perfect, if a bit shaky on opening night. But with audience howls, hoots and standing ovations, the show will undoubtedly only get better as it continues.
There is no redeeming social value here — no blatant preachy message about our culture’s ridiculous image of femininity and female pulchritude. But the message is there, if you care to see it. If not, just relax and enjoy the show. And take a front-row seat, so you can judge for yourself the glory of Miss Glamouresse.
©2002 Patté Productions Inc