Contest parody aimed at all ages

`Pageant': The hilarious takeoff on beauty competitions lets audiences help pick a winner.

March 15, 2001|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you like beauty pageants, Theatre Outback is the place to be over the next four weekends as Miss Texas, Miss Bible Belt, Miss Deep South, Miss Great Plains, Miss West Coast and Miss Industrial Northeast vie for the vaunted "Miss Glamouresse" title.

Those who've always wanted to judge a beauty contest will be thrilled to know that after the talent, bathing suit, interview and physical fitness competitions have taken place, the audience will get to pick the winner.

Oh, and did I mention that each of these comely contestants will be played by a man, and that some of the fellows are in excess of 6 feet 6 inches tall?

"Pageant" is, in fact, the latest comedy to be presented by Columbia's own Rep Stage, beginning its run tomorrow. And the show's director, Terry J. Long, hastens to point out that, though the contestants are indeed men in drag, this is family entertainment from the get-go.

"It is a hilarious parody of an institution that many people are fascinated by and still care about," says Long, a Baltimore special education teacher who directed Rep Stage's "I Hate Hamlet" in 1997 and has brought "Pageant" to the stage three times previously for other theater companies. "But as funny as it is, it's no campy, over-the-top drag queen show. There are double-entendres, yes, but nothing is off-color or offensive."

In fact, the director adds, the contestants quickly become characters an audience can connect with.

Structured like a standard beauty pageant, complete with an unctuous host and the aforementioned competitions played out, the play includes an interview segment in which the participants tell their life stories and enumerate their likes and dislikes. We also get to hear what's actually going on inside their heads at various junctures.

"They become real people," says Long, "and an audience can find plenty worth caring about as the characters tell their stories."

It's those connections with the audience that culminate in the selection of the winner, who varies from show to show. "In that sense, it's a different show every time," says the director.

Needless to say, the much maligned talent competition gets into the act, and this "Pageant" features talents as diverse as ventriloquism and accordion playing.

The show is infrequently done. Indeed, the only other local theater company to put it on the stage was The Spotlighters of Baltimore in 1998.

"I know people who are coming down from Canada to see us," Long says. "People who know this show go out of their way to see it."

One of those viewers will be Long himself. "Other shows I direct, I might see a couple of times after we open," he says, "but this one, I'll see at least twice each weekend we run it. I always find something new to laugh about."

Rep Stage's production of "Pageant" features Randolph Hadaway as Miss Texas, James Waltz as Miss Deep South, Stuart Goldstone as Miss Bible Belt, Douglas Lisenbee as Miss Great Plains, David Allen as Miss West Coast and Brian Jacobs as Miss Industrial Northeast. Ty Hreben plays the master of ceremonies.

"Pageant" will play at Howard Community College's Theatre Outback, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and Sunday afternoons through April 8. Information and reservations: Rep Stage box office, 410-772-4900, Ext. 0.

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