San Diego, CA---I have vivid memories of Bert Parks singing “There She Is, Miss America” every year at The Miss America Beauty Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. Stately young women representing every state would parade down the runway in gowns, bathing suits; be quizzed on world affairs and just life in general. It was a spectacular event, if you were into that type/hype of theatre.
Hold on to your hats, the Pageant is back. Oh! Did I say ‘The Miss America Pageant’ was back? Ooops! I meant “The Miss Glamouresse Pageant” is back again after a looong absence (2005). It features six contestants who march downstage to the song “Take A Look” sung by the suavely attired (in rich reds and soft -baby pink-colored velvet outfits), Frankie Cavalier (Phil Johnson) acting as the ever attentive Master of Ceremonies, “So let the beauty begin”.
This is the Pageant sponsored by Glamouresse Beauty products for the ‘modern woman’. That’s the one now playing out in San Diego’s historic Old Town District, at the Cygnet Theatre through Aug. 31st. It features Miss Bible Belt (Ryan Fahy), Miss West Coast (Luke Harvey Jacobs), Miss Deep South (David McBean), Miss Industrial Northeast (Max Cadillac), and what would a beauty contest be without a Miss Texas? (Charles Osborne).
This pageant is a simple 90-minute intermission less parody. These six ‘women’ vie for the title of Miss Glamouresse. They parade in front of the audience in the standard categories of bathing suit, evening gown, talent and hawker of Glamouresse Beauty Supplies that are almost as grotesque as they are funny. Sean Flanning designed the glitter, glitz gaudy Glamouresse padded stage highlighted by Michelle Caron’ bright lights.
From Smooth as Marble Facial Spackle to Solar Panels for drier hair to deodorant to Lip Snack Lip Stick the contestants are as serious in their intent as if they were going to get a trip around the world if they win The Miss Glamouresse Beauty Contest. In fact they get loaded down with makeup and a vanity filled with Glamouresse beauty products- other gifts as luggage, a hair dryer and a check for about two hundred and eighty some dollars and thirty-two cents. WOW!
It’s tacky, funny and entertaining. Each and every one of the contestants is talented in his own right and each is very convincing, sort of. 'Pageant’, a kick and a half musical comedy/burlesque/ drag beauty pageant spoofing the American Beauty Pageant Industry. With book and lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, music by Albert Evans and conceived by Robert Longbottom, this non stop evening of fun is directed and choreographed by James Vasquez with musical direction by Don Le Master and his magical keyboards.
After a year’s stint on Off-Broadway and garnishing the Drama Desk and Outer Critic’s Circle Award nominations and making a splash in London, it has landed firmly once again in Old Town.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what part of the production is the funniest. Two of the contestants did stand out with David McBean as Miss Deep South doing his ventriloquist act and looking beautiful in his/her detailed outfits especially her ruffled layered gown ((Shirley Pierson designed the colorful costumes accented with Peter Herman’s far out wigs). Charles Osborne as Miss Texas shows off a mean tap act with six shooters, spot on shooting and a roping trick. She also works with the 'beauty impaired'.
Miss West Coast, living dangerously on the San Andreas fault would rather live on the edge than safely in a vault, was impressive in her talent act of her many reincarnations.
It is an evening of solid chuckle even though some of the shtick is outdated and worn. None of that stopped funny man Phil Johnson from working his Alice B. Toklas off to bring the audience on board with him:
“Thank you ... aw, gee, thank you. You're my favorite girls and this is my favorite night of the year. And as I always say: The Super Bowl's swell The Oscars all right But nothing compares With Glamouresse night”
A panel of judges is picked from the audience every night so a different contestant can win. (I still think the fix is in, but you can be your own judge). And while the spoof is on for Beauty Pageants, there is no question of the real talent on stage. They too, all work their little buns off. It ‘aint easy being a guy being a gal!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 31st.
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Production Type: Musical
Where: 4040 Twigs Street, Old Town
Ticket Prices: $37.00-$64.00