Cue six men, dressed as women, all with flamboyantly entertaining personalities and one epic battle for the crown of the Miss Glamoresse competition and you’ve got yourself a seat at Brüka Theatre in downtown Reno for the upcoming production of “Pageant” — a tongue-in-cheek look at the alluring, and not so alluring, world of beauty pageants.
Naturally, directing six different über diva personalities isn’t easy, but someone has to do it. And director Mary Bennett is the one for the job.
“It’s a very, very fun play with a heart,” Bennett said, explaining that the musical unfolds as a beauty competition, complete with an emcee and commercial spots. “It’s a great show for theaters to do.”
The contestants, including the likes of “Miss Texas,” “Miss Bible Belt” and “Miss Industrial Northeast” (with accents and Bible thumping to prove it) compete in the typical evening gown, talent and swimsuit portions of the show.
“There is audience participation,” Bennett said, referring to five different seats where certain audience members will sit in as judges and be able to pick and choose their very own Miss Glamoresse. “It changes every night, depending on who is eliminated and who wins.”
In preparation, Bennett said she wanted to make the distinction that “Pageant” isn’t about men in drag, rather men looking and becoming the parts of women.
“These are men playing the roles of women,” Bennett said, explaining great efforts were taken with hair, makeup and outfits to not look ostentatious, but instead more realistic. “It’s about having a good sense of humor about yourself and our world.”
Originally written by playwrights Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, “Pageant” was an instant winner when Bennett first read it through a few years back. Her only setback, though, was that she had never been involved with pageants growing up and never had a chance to see how they really work.
“I like the comedy side of it (pageants),” Bennett said. “I like the making-fun-of-society part of it. I don’t know about the other side.”
To address this problem, Bennett invited several pageant experts and coaches to instruct her “girls” on posture, waves and how and when to smile for audiences for authenticity’s sake.
“I’ve loved watching these guys develop into these different pageant characters,” Bennett said. “They’ve really given depth to their characters. I love watching them ‘bring it.’ ”
And despite somewhat of a late start with casting, Bennett said the production is sure to please audiences with live singing, choreographed dancing and a hand puppet or two.
“We’re poking fun of the times,” Bennett said, referring to how certain lyrics or jokes will play off the notion of a “man’s world.”
“But it’s not overly feminist,” she added. “We really make fun of everybody and people need to laugh right now, they really do.”
“Pageant” opens Friday and runs until June 13. Shows begin at 8 p.m. with one matinee showing on May 24 starting at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $18 for students and seniors and $25 at the door.