Wisconsin might be known for its‘ dairy but right now, New York is rivaling the mid-west state for cheese production in a revival of Bill Russell and Frank Kelley’s drag musical Pageant. Originally premiering in 1991, this spoof on beauty pageants pits six “ladies” from various parts of the country against one another to earn the title of Miss Glamouresse. One by one, each of the six contestants struts “her” stuff in swimsuit, talent, and interview competitions. The hair is sprayed, the nails are dried, the lashes done, the lipstick applied and…the tuck secure?!?
It turns out, underneath all of the perfectly flowing hair and dazzling dresses, that our bevel of beauties is really a bunch of beaus. Nick Cearley (Miss Great Plains), Nic Cory (Miss Industrial North East), Alex Ringler (Miss Texas), Marty Thomas (Miss Deep South), Seth Tucker (Miss West Coast), and Curtis Wiley (Miss Bible Belt) each make dazzling divas and shine individually throughout the show. The real standout here though, is John Bolton, who brings an unctuous charm to the evening’s proceedings as Frankie Cavalier. Channelling Pat Sajak, Bert Parks, and every other obsequious TV host, Bolton’s Cavalier is the stuff of parody heaven. As the night gets underway, our hammy host engages audience members to become the night’s judges.
Musically there is nothing particularly memorable in Pageant, but let’s be honest: No one intended this to be a sweeping epic with French flags and heroic war anthems. Much like a traditional beauty contest, the vacuity cup is filled to the brim. Thankfully, both the cast and audience are playfully self-aware and siphon every drop of glitter and camp from this amusing beauty bowl.
Pageant is now playing off Broadway at the Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street between 8th and 9th. Showtimes are Saturdays through Mondays. For tickets and more information visit http://www.pageantmusical.com/