Crowning Miss Glamouresse 2013 is the major thrust of “Pageant — The Musical,” which opens at the Victoria Theatre today. But there’s more to the production, including clever twists, says director-producer Robb Huddleston.
“The show takes shots at beauty pageants, but it’s not mocking them,” he adds.
Written by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly with music by Albert Evans, the show originally debuted off-Broadway 22 years ago. It boasts everything from swimsuit and evening gown competitions to production numbers and other eye-openers along the catwalk — mainly men in drag.
Local actors playing the contestants include Aaron Brewer (Miss Bible Belt), Jon Deline (Miss Deep South), Tim Homsley (Miss Texas), Daft-Nee Gesuntheit! (Miss Great Plains), Maurice Andre San-Chez (Miss West Coast) and Eddie Bell (aka Cookie Dough of “Golden Girls” fame) as Miss Industrial Northeast.
Huddleston’s own experiences may have played a vital role in bringing this version of “Pageant” to life.
He reportedly climbed onto a chair in a small Southern Baptist church in North Carolina when he was 4, and soon after found himself being backed up by the 30-member choir on Sunday mornings. He went on to perform in numerous productions — from theme parks to cruise ships — and found success helping produce live events for NBC, CBS, VH1 and other networks.
Since 2008, he has directed operations for the Stern Grove Festival Association. Last year, following an urge to do something different on the side, he launched Robbie Wayne Productions and decided “Pageant” would be his first show.
“I’ve always loved pageants and I don’t know why,” he says. “I’m one of those people who will watch something like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ as if it were a train wreck. I can’t look away. I am just so enthralled with what these people go through.”
As a result, Huddleston strived to be as inventive as he could with this production.
“Men in dresses don’t carry an entire show,” he says. “It’s funny, but I wanted to invest in the character development so that it actually becomes a real contest.”
It helps that contest judges are handpicked from the audience each night and asked to score the contestants.
“Not knowing who is going to win, there is a very friendly competition between the cast members to actually want to win,” he says. “That’s where the audience gets pulled in and makes this different from a regular show. As for the winner, it just depends on who’s on their game that night.”
Or in the right pair of heels.