Beauty may be only skin deep, but the beauty of “Pageant” goes all the way to the funny bone – and then some.
This 1991 musical spoof of beauty pageants, where the “girls” are actually all guys in gowns, swimwear and colorful regional costumes for their “talent” competition, is full of chuckles, giggles and more than a few guffaws.
And this latest version, the fourth in the past two decades at Roxy’s Downtown (formerly Cabaret Oldtown), is a hoot, with some surprisingly accomplished – and convincing – high-heeled maneuvering.
This cast, as trumpeted in the opening production number, has “Something Extra.” And they know just how to conceal it under layers of flounces, sexy sequins, mounds of lustrous hair, flawless faces and swimwear that’s more revealing than you may think prudent (or possible) under the circumstances.
The show was conceived by Robert Longbottom with frothy, upbeat music by Albert Evans and silly, satirical lyrics/book by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly. It’s written so that if the actors really aren’t accomplished in certain pageant talent areas, it doesn’t make much difference. Klutzy only adds to the fun.
Here, though, Roxy’s cast, under direction and choreography by Kyle Vespestad, shows considerable aplomb in such areas as tap, baton twirling, splits and ventriloquism as well as singing in feminine ranges and tones. The winner – Miss Glamouresse 2015 – is not a foregone conclusion, because five audience members are selected by random drawing before the show to act as independent judges.
The script is comically skewed to favor about three of the six competitors, but the outcome can be different each performance, leading to an unpredictable, semiscripted but mostly ad libbed finale as contestants react – in character – to the decision.
There’s Joe Consiglio as Miss Texas, a poised, slinky brunette with an attitude as big as her state, whose community service is graciously working with “the beauty impaired.” Miss Texas is a definite beauty with a bit of menace lurking behind every professional smile, even as she wows us with tapping around the stage while twirling batons at the same time.
There’s Brad Purkey as Miss Deep South, a breathy blonde belle in hoop skirts with a drawl that drips honey and a ventriloquism performance that will leave you rolling on the floor. There’s full-voiced Erik Gosnell as Miss Bible Belt with a sequined cross emblazoned on her evening gown, whose talent ranges from playing hand bells to talking in tongues. Her “Banking on Jesus” is a rousing toe-tapper.
There’s Dylan Mark Lewis as Miss Great Plains, a plain-Jane nice gal with puppy dog eyes who seems like Dorothy Gale’s shy cousin in her Bo Peep frills and jeans appliqued with sunflowers. There’s Ryan Ehresman as Miss Industrial Northeast, a bold, brassy Latina with a riot of black, curly hair and a penchant for big flowers and loud colors who plays the accordion (sorry, no cliched “Lady of Spain”) while roller skating.
And there is director Vespestad as Miss West Coast, a blonde ditz with Farrah Fawcett hair, a wide-open face full of wonder and memories of many past lives. Her interpretive dance inside a stretchy fabric sack is a hilarious homage to Martha Graham. And Vespestad’s patented clueless giggle (“Wha-a-at?”) is so joyous and infectious it can set the whole room snickering every time.
The host for the evening is mellifluous Don Winsor as Frankie Cavalier, a professionally sincere Bert Parks-wannabe whose baritone beautifully powers through production numbers such as the opening “Natural Born Females” and “It’s Gotta Be Venus,” a space-age fantasy commercial for Glamouresse beauty products.
If You Go
Where: Roxy’s Downtown, 412 1/2 E. Douglas (upstairs)
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Sept. 12. Doors open 6:30 p.m., meal service 6:45-7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25; $15 extra for meal catered by Old Mill Tasty Shop. Call 316-265-4400.