When you get down to it, the Richmond Triangle Players stage two kinds of shows: serious works that delve into LGBT issues, and campy crowd-pleasers that celebrate gay culture.
"Pageant" falls into the latter category, showcasing what it calls six natural-born females in a beauty competition held by the fictitious cosmetic company Glamouresse. From opening to close, the musical unfolds just like a beauty pageant, albeit one with a hint of John Waters.
Through the pageant's segments, these men in drag land plenty of irreverent jokes while they stomp around in heels. Miss Industrial Northeast (Fabian Starr) rolls around on skates while playing the accordion. Miss West Coast (Andrew Etheredge) enacts a ridiculous interpretive dance while wearing a bodysuit. Miss Texas (Todd Minnich) twirls a baton, shoots guns and twirls a lasso in celebration of the Lone Star State.
The show is low on plot but high on laughs, especially when the ladies plug Glamouresse's line of ludicrous beauty products. To give you a taste, Miss Deep South (Brent Gallahan) gets a little hot and bothered while promoting a vibrating device that's supposed to save the ozone from hairspray fumes. Brian Baez is hilarious as the simultaneously devout and libidinous Miss Bible Belt, and Steve Boshen is cheesy charm as master of ceremonies Frankie Cavalier.
With hair and makeup by Joel Furtick, no group of men ever looked prettier, and Ann Easterling's choreography is playful. The dresses in the evening gown segment by D. Mark Souza are excellent, but costumes in later portions of the show aren't as pulled together.
John Knapp's intentionally cheap-looking set might be a bit too tacky for the show's proceedings, and ongoing problems with the curtain the night I attend don't appear to be deliberate. Also, the music's volume is too high in the mix, drowning out some of Bill Russell and Frank Kelly's humorous lyrics.
As with any beauty pageant, a winner must emerge, and this one is chosen by five audience members. In keeping with the tone of the evening, the audience sees this as an opportunity to get a little wild, with one judge holding up two scorecards to read a vote of "69." This is the level of fun that director Justin Amellio has created.
With campy shows like these, they don't actually have to be good to be entertaining. This one just happens to be. S
"Pageant" runs through Aug. 30 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. For information, call 346-8113 or visit rtriangle.org.