Six men are vying for one crown. The stakes are high. Reputations are on the line.
One man is wearing a pair of leopard print stiletto boots.
It’s an average night at Billie Ruben Inc.’s production of the musical, Pageant in downtown Decatur, Alabama - an average night where the audience members themselves will crown the next Miss Glamouresse.
Pageant sets up shop in the Princess Center for the Performing Arts. The house has been offering up the arts in Decatur since 1983. Its newest production labels itself as “Miss America Meets Kinky Boots.”
Pageant, with book and lyrics by Bill Russell (Side Show) and Frank Kelly (The Texas Chainsaw Musical) and music by Albert Evans (Yankee Doodle Dandy), runs true to pageant form. The contestants compete through an evening gown portion, swimwear, talent, physical fitness, and a spokesmodel spot where they present mock sales pitches for Glamouresse’s line of pink bedazzled beauty products.
The cast of seven and small onstage band are a cohesive unit led by their effervescent directing team of Sherri Ryan and Ron Simmons.
Despite its pageant format, it’s a surprisingly physical show. Miss Industrial Northeast, played by Jeremy Woods, does a frenzied rollerblading/accordion number in the talent portion. Miss Texas, played by Jacob Daughtery, performs a full-blown Texas two-step solo dance number in Daisy Dukes.
Get it, girl.
Actors Doug Mayes and John Coleman bring more subtle characterizations to their respective roles of Miss Bible Belt and Miss Deep South. Mayes’ withering, “God will get you for that” glare grounds Miss Bible Belt in a somewhat unsettling, but hilarious aura of complete self-conviction. He also works those leopard stiletto boots, but I won’t spoil much more for you.
Coleman’s Miss Deep South is more soft-spoken which makes her talent of ventriloquism that much more surprising.
This cast of caricatures and beauty queens is led by Glamouresse’s host, Frankie Cavalier, played by Shane Kennedy. Kennedy keeps the energy high amidst spacey contestants (Miss West Coast) and dramatic readings of self-compositions. Thanks, Miss Great Plains.
Pageant is not a particularly deep thought-provoking theatrical experience, but its beauty is that it certainly doesn’t claim to be one. Sure, you could argue it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at pageants, beauty, and feminism, but that’s another column for another day. This pageant is a night of campy, frothy, drag-filled fun which is apparent the minute you step into the space lit with a soft pink glow. It’s a tulle-filled, sparkly experience with killer eyeshadow and more contouring than you can shake a stick at. This show depends on its audience to step up to the plate and join in on the fun. So by all means, bring your judging eyes. This group welcomes it.
Who knows? You may even get to crown a queen.
Pageant opens Thursday August 27 (7:30 p.m.) with performances August 28 (7:30 p.m.) and 29 (2 & 7:30 p.m.). Tickets are available at http://www.princesstheatre.org/.