Perhaps theatrical drag shows run their course. One wonders about that while watching Lyric Theatres tepid production of Pageant: A Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, a 1991 spoof about as outré as a ham sandwich and just as hammy.
Pageant (Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, book and lyrics; Albert Evans, music) depicts a contest to select Miss Glamouresse, the heavily made-up face of a fictional purveyor of beauty products.
The shows conceit is male actors play the female characters. This must have sounded like a brilliant idea a quarter century ago.
Frankie Cavalier (Monte Riegel Wheeler in a black pompadour with a gray streak that recalls The Bride of Frankenstein), who is tender yet macho and hot as a nacho, emcees with smarmy savoir-faire.
You wont find the faintest trace of subtlety in this show. Frankie introduces the contestants in Natural Born Females (which we know they arent), and the company follows that number with Something Extra.
For anyone who still hasnt caught on, Frankie ends the song gesturing toward a contestants crotch.
The Miss Glamouresse pageant draws contestants from throughout the country with personalities to match. Miss West Coast (James Michael Avance) acts a little stoned. Beware of Miss Texas (Tanner Lee Hanley) if she loses the tiara. Miss Industrial Northeast (Ross McCorkell) is an earthy Latina whose talent is playing the accordion while roller-skating. The tomboyish Miss Great Plains (Sheridan McMichael) acts as if shed rather be anywhere else but here. Miss Deep South (Shane Pruitt) is prim-and-proper to the extreme. And Miss Bible Belt (Christopher Sieker) combines religion and business in a way that could win her the Iowa Republican caucuses.
Among the pageants competitions are talent, swimsuit and beauty-crisis counseling. Contestants talents include baton twirling, tap dancing, interpretive dance, recitation and ventriloquism.
A host of real, past-and-present pageant winners were in the audience at the reviewed performance, including Miss Oklahoma and Miss Gay Oklahoma.
At intermission, I asked Miss Teen Moore-Norman what she thought of the show. She liked it.
At one point, Frankie pays tribute to the productions wardrobe supervisor, whose name and particulars will not be revealed here. Its the funniest 30 seconds in the show.
The cast and designers bought into director Ashley Wells concept for the show. You cant fault the actors for lack of effort. Dawn Drake Toneys set and props credibly reflect a B-list pageant and make good use of the Plaza Theatre stage, enhanced by Aaron Mooneys lighting design.
Lyric staged Pageant in 2004 and 2006 at Freede Little Theatre. Why the companys deciders deemed the show revival-worthy now remains a mystery.
Print headline: Passé Pageant, Real-life beauty queens approve of this show, but our reviewer hoped for more substance and subtlety.