A spoof on an institution that already verges on self-parody, Pageant is a light, pleasant diversion. It's laden with crazy, giddy moments and, like most drag comedy, pokes fun at the affectations and lapses of ladylike propriety. The sociological ramifications of beauty contests in general, placing excessive value on attributes that really, have little to do with anybody's contribution to society, would seem to be a perfect fit for the skepticism and irony of camp. From the first two musical numbers : Natural Born Females and Something Extra, Pageant just loves to nudge us in the ribs with the “open secret” that there may a great deal of overblown femininity on display, but very little estrogen. It explores the gray area of nuanced excess. We can forgive their jabs at female empowerment when we question how seriously any woman participating in such a spectacle could be taking such considerations.
Conceived by Robert Longbottom, with Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly and Music composed by Albert Evans, Pageant is a very satisfying send-up of a middle-class paradigm for female success that has somehow, managed to survive into the 21st Century. It has just enough silliness, venom and tongue-in-cheek raunch to keep us tickled while the contestants demonstrate poise, talent, and guest commercial spots for chief sponsor : Glamouresse. Comparisons to the goddess of love, self-pleasuring devices disguised as “beauty tools” (that's Girl Power!) a militant, born-again Christian contestant, a pompadoured emcee who doesn't even bother to conceal his flask, it all just enhances the cheesy tapestry of this loopy endeavor.
Special props must be given to the cast : Ashton McKay Shawver (Miss Bible Belt) Peter DiCesare (Miss Deep South) Micah Green (Miss Great Plains) Sergio Antonio Garcia (Miss Industrial Northeast) Walter Lee (Miss Texas) and Drew Kelly (Miss West Coast). In addition to learning lines, songs, dance numbers, “talents,” these gentlemen took the time to cultivate the demanding art of female impersonation, learning the attitude, comportment, posture, and zillion additional details to create the complicated illusion women are compelled to endure, just to thrive in a vacuous, patriarchal culture. It couldn't have been easy, but for the audience, it made the experience just that much more entertaining. B. J. Cleveland as Frankie Cavalier, exhibited just the right blend of resignation, finesse and incredulity to make for the perfect host.
Uptown Players presents : Pageant : The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, playing March 28th-April 13th, 2014. Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75219. 214-219-2718. www.uptownplayers.org