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A beauty contest with a twist

Pageant: the Beauty Pageant Musical at Cygnet Theatre

Pageant: The Beauty Pageant Musical

From the fluffy curtains to the large G hovering over the faux marble floor, everything’s an ardent pink — the signature color of Glamouresse, whose beauty products include an aerosol that protects the ozone layer and an edible lipstick that provides “color and calories.”

The corporation also sponsors the to-die-for beauty pageant, Miss Glamouresse. Contestants come from all over: Miss Texas, Miss Deep South (who longs for antebellum days), Miss Great Plains, Miss Industrial Northeast, Miss West Coast, and Miss Bible Belt (where “God spreads love with his mighty sword”).

This year’s pageant’s at Cygnet Theatre. So, as M.C. Frankie Cavalier shouts with glee: “Let the beauty begin!”

Pageant satirizes beauty contests with a twist — actually, two. The winner isn’t predetermined. The six contestants vie for the title in several categories (among them doing commercials for Glamouresse products). Five judges, selected from the audience for every show, cast numerical votes.

The second twist: the six performers are men in drag. Which takes time to realize, since their terrific wigs and make-up (by Peter Herman) and swanky costumes (Shirley Pierson) lead the eye to believe otherwise. And do double-takes, in some cases.

After a while, and probably like watching boys play women on Shakespeare’s stage, who’s playing whom fades away. The six competitors work hard to succeed.

What emerges instead is the endless, idiotic steeplechase women must run to achieve an impossible stereotype of “beauty.”

There’s even a third twist, come to think of it. Each contestant actively plays the stereotype for her/his region, then breaks out of it. Miss West Coast (Luke Harvey Jacobs) has only smog-thick air between the ears — room for her 12 past lives? Miss Industrial Northeast (Max Cadillac) does an unexpected accordion solo. And Miss Bible Belt (Ryan Fahey) lectures on economics and asks, “If God gave you manna in the wilderness, would you say ‘I’m on a diet’?”

Charles Osborne’s Miss Texas does a tap dance (and, a highlight: almost loses his/her wig — keep it in!). And David McBean’s Miss Deep South is at once Blanche DuBois and a hilarious puppeteer in a sing-out-war with his creations.

Phil Johnson gets to play a stereotype too. A wide, funhouse smile ever in place, his Glitter Gulch outfits gaudy enough for Elvis, Johnson’s Frankie Cavalier is a hoot as the man who, once a year, goes to M.C. Heaven.

Pageant verges on being a one-note show. The set pieces, by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, are uneven. Some continue after the point’s been made. They often depend on the performer to make them go. Johnson’s songs, one-liners, and breathless awe of his task keep things moving throughout.

So do James Vasquez’s precise direction and choreography, Michael McKeon’s appropriately goofy props (among them the world’s largest tube of lipstick), and a game cast doing silly things with admirable sincerity — and not an ounce of parody.


Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, Old Town, playing through August 31.

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Pageant: The Beauty Pageant Musical

From the fluffy curtains to the large G hovering over the faux marble floor, everything’s an ardent pink — the signature color of Glamouresse, whose beauty products include an aerosol that protects the ozone layer and an edible lipstick that provides “color and calories.”

The corporation also sponsors the to-die-for beauty pageant, Miss Glamouresse. Contestants come from all over: Miss Texas, Miss Deep South (who longs for antebellum days), Miss Great Plains, Miss Industrial Northeast, Miss West Coast, and Miss Bible Belt (where “God spreads love with his mighty sword”).

This year’s pageant’s at Cygnet Theatre. So, as M.C. Frankie Cavalier shouts with glee: “Let the beauty begin!”

Pageant satirizes beauty contests with a twist — actually, two. The winner isn’t predetermined. The six contestants vie for the title in several categories (among them doing commercials for Glamouresse products). Five judges, selected from the audience for every show, cast numerical votes.

The second twist: the six performers are men in drag. Which takes time to realize, since their terrific wigs and make-up (by Peter Herman) and swanky costumes (Shirley Pierson) lead the eye to believe otherwise. And do double-takes, in some cases.

After a while, and probably like watching boys play women on Shakespeare’s stage, who’s playing whom fades away. The six competitors work hard to succeed.

What emerges instead is the endless, idiotic steeplechase women must run to achieve an impossible stereotype of “beauty.”

There’s even a third twist, come to think of it. Each contestant actively plays the stereotype for her/his region, then breaks out of it. Miss West Coast (Luke Harvey Jacobs) has only smog-thick air between the ears — room for her 12 past lives? Miss Industrial Northeast (Max Cadillac) does an unexpected accordion solo. And Miss Bible Belt (Ryan Fahey) lectures on economics and asks, “If God gave you manna in the wilderness, would you say ‘I’m on a diet’?”

Charles Osborne’s Miss Texas does a tap dance (and, a highlight: almost loses his/her wig — keep it in!). And David McBean’s Miss Deep South is at once Blanche DuBois and a hilarious puppeteer in a sing-out-war with his creations.

Phil Johnson gets to play a stereotype too. A wide, funhouse smile ever in place, his Glitter Gulch outfits gaudy enough for Elvis, Johnson’s Frankie Cavalier is a hoot as the man who, once a year, goes to M.C. Heaven.

Pageant verges on being a one-note show. The set pieces, by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, are uneven. Some continue after the point’s been made. They often depend on the performer to make them go. Johnson’s songs, one-liners, and breathless awe of his task keep things moving throughout.

So do James Vasquez’s precise direction and choreography, Michael McKeon’s appropriately goofy props (among them the world’s largest tube of lipstick), and a game cast doing silly things with admirable sincerity — and not an ounce of parody.


Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, Old Town, playing through August 31.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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