’Pageant’: A Beauty Of A Show Returns
"And the winner is..."
While we’ve been hearing these words a lot these past few weeks, they take on a whole new meaning in "Pageant," the hit 1991 Off-Broadway musical by Bill Russell, Frank Kelly, and Albert Evans, which will be receiving its first revival on Feb. 3, 10, 17, and 24 at the Red Lacquer Club at Lucky Cheng’s (240 West 52nd Street). All the shows will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
"We are so excited to be bringing this piece back, and so is the entire community" says director Matt Lenz. "Those of us old enough to have seen it the first time loved it and remember peeing their pants because of how funny it was, and those who didn’t get to see it back then have this anticipatory excitement. And what’s really wonderful is that the material holds up like a Buick. It is so solid -- and still genuinely funny."
As the show’s title suggests, it takes place at a beauty pageant. But here, the six "female" contestants, who compete in such categories as swimsuit, talent, and evening gown, are actually played by men. And putting together the perfect group of wannabe winners -- to be played by Nick Cearley ("The Skivvies"), Tom Deckman ("Spamalot"), Frankie James Grande ("Mamma Mia"), Douglas Lyons ("Beautiful"), Alex Ringler ("West Side Story"), and Marty Thomas ("Xanadu") -- was one of the most important elements in Lenz’s remounting of the show.
"We were originally gearing up for a full production at New World Stages, so we did a lot of auditions during the summer, although we ended up with a somewhat different cast than we first anticipated," says Lenz. "The first thing we realized is to be cast you have to be funny. This material is hilarious, but it needs actors like Brad Oscar (who plays the pageant’s host) who have real comic finesse, not an in-your-face attack style."