San Diego Theater Review: PAGEANT (Cygnet Theatre)

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by Milo Shapiro on July 27, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Exiting Cygnet’s revival of Pageant, my writing pad, normally filled with pages of barely decipherable notes, had nothing upon it but the title.  This successfully silly and enjoyable entertainment is neither deep nor needs fixing—and besides, who can turn away from such lovely ladies?

(top row) Ryan Fahey, Luke Harvey Jacobs, Max Cadillac (bottom row) Conor Tibbs, Charles Osborne, David McBean in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

Pageant takes us through an over-the-top beauty contest sponsored by Glamouresse beauty products, and the six contestants all desperately want to be the newly-crowned Miss Glamouresse.  If you’ve ever seen a beauty contest, you know what you’re in for, except for two additions:  All entrants are played by men and several audience members are selected to be the judges.  Yep, it’s like that.

David McBean, Luke Harvey Jacobs, Charles Osborne, Ryan Fahey, Max Cadillac, and Conor Tibbs in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

There is no more plot in Bill Russell and Frank Kelly’s book, and Albert Evans’ songs (with wry social-commentary lyrics by Russell and Kelly) are basically unmemorable, so allow yourself just to soak up the spectacle and smile.  Yes, some bits hold up better than others during the ladies’ “Product Endorsement” and “Beauty Hotline” competitions, but the show’s quirks are forgivable given the fun generated by an infectiously energetic cast.

David McBean, Tyan Fahey, Charles Osborne, Phil Johnson, Max Cadillac, Luke Jacobs Harvey, and Conor Tibbs in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

Director James Vasquez creates the grandiose atmosphere of Atlantic City on a rather small stage, aided by the sublime Phil Johnson upping the lunacy and largesse as the deliciously super-cheesy host Frankie Cavalier.  The campy performers are more than capable drag queens; these men offer strong vocals, athletic dance moves, and excellent comic timing.  One of Vasquez’ triumphs is choreographing complicated dance maneuvers on an oddly-shaped thrust stage without one high-heeled contender tumbling down the staircase below Sean Fanning’s simple but glittery framework, which includes that giant Glamouresse logo.

Luke Harvey Jacobs in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

From bathing suits to space-age helmets, Shirley Pierson’s costumes are a blast. The ladies represent their home territories (Miss Bible Belt, Miss West Coast, et al), and the evening dress on Miss Deep South (David McBean, whose face subtly spoke volumes when he came in second place) was a marvel worthy of Scarlett O’Hara.

Max Cadillac, Conor Tibbs, Ryan Fahey, Phil Johnson, David McBean, Luke Harvey Jacobs, and Charles Osborne in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

So give the “ladies” their due, and clamor for your favorite gal among the gams and glamour. It doesn’t matter who you choose, because each one is a winner in all her ersatz beauty.

Ryan Fahey, Charles Osborne, Conor Tibbs, David McBean, Max Cadillac, and Luke Harvey Jacobs in Cygnet’s PAGEANT.

photos by Daren Scott

Cygnet Theatre Company
Old Town Theater, 4040 Twiggs St.
Wed and Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri at 8:00 pm,
Sat at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Sun at 2 pm and 7 pm
scheduled to end on August 31, 2014
for tickets, call 619-337-1525 or visit

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