Review: Pageant

4 star rating
A glitzy, slick endeavour which embodies enough comedy to make for a fun and appealingly entertaining evening.
Pageant at the London Irish Centre

Image: The Flash Point Group

Closes here: Friday 25 August 2017


Bill Russell and Frank Kelly

Robert Longbottom (original concept)

Albert Evans

Bill Russell and Frank Kelly

Bill Russell


Miles Western - Frankie Cavilier

Alex Anstey - Miss Great Plains

Kevin Grogan - Miss West Coast

Nic Chiappetta - Miss Industrial North East

Jonni Gatenby - Miss Texas

John McManus - Miss Bible Belt

Adam O'Shea - Miss Deep South

Additional voiceovers - Jesica Pardoe, Lauren Natasha Hall, Ella Stewart, Katy Richardson


Pageant is a musical comedy about the world of beauty pageants - where six hopeful contestants battle to win the coveted title of 'Miss Glamouresse'.

But this is no ordinary pageant: all of the 'girls' are played by men.

With catchy songs, outrageous costumes and hilarious dialogue, the contestants compete in rounds including talent, spokesperson, ball gowns and swimsuits.

Finally, their fate rests with a panel of judges selected from the audience.

Who will it be?

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Friday 11 August 2017
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Playing as part of this year's Camden Fringe, 'Pageant' is a comedic musical which gently lampoons American beauty contests.

Now I'm certainly no aficionado or devotee of beauty pageants, but the format is pretty-much instantly recognisable and thus comprehensible for most people, I would think.

Here, the contestants have been selected via preliminary rounds of competition and now face the daunting task of competing in the final stage where one of their number will be crowned as 'Miss Glamouresse', a title which derives from the sponsoring company.

Each contestant has already earned their own title through regional competitions, so they go by names such as 'Miss Bible Belt', 'Miss Great Plains' and the like.

Now there's one marked departure from the usual beauty pageant format - the girls are all played by men - so, essentially, this is a drag version of a pageant.

That on its own doesn't quite guarantee a riotously funny evening - and it doesn't really ever get to those dizzying comedic heights, even if there are many genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.

The show itself is hardly new - in fact, it's now over a quarter of a century old.

And its age does show a little here and there because some of the situations and jokes feel a little well-worn or even tamely mild - a little judicious updating might provide some bigger laughs here and there, especially in the second half which felt like the runner-up in the comedy department.

On the other hand, the show is a kind of homage to a particular type of event from a particular era and, given that fact, tinkering with it too much might just spoil the overall effect.

Even so, there were times when the comedy felt it needed something of a boost.

If you've ever attended a drag show, you may expect considerable amounts of innuendo at the very least, and even perhaps more than a smidgen of smutty banter.

Well, you'll be largely disappointed because there is very little here in the way of that rather raw, deliberately vulgar humour which you might find in pub drag acts, for example.

The host for the show is the smooth-talking, all-round entertainer Frankie Cavilier, slickly and impressively played by the hugely talented Miles Western who nails the part pretty-well perfectly.

His job is to introduce the 'girls' and generally move events along, but he also provides fine, almost effortless vocals in the set-pieces with the girls as they are first introduced and then face sections where they appear in swimsuits, ballgowns or undertake individual tasks.

The 'girls' deal with the quick-fire costume changes with considerable aplomb, project well-differentiated characters, each with their own distinctive comedic mannerism and qualities, and the company singing of the well-composed songs is good, and exceptional in some cases.

Bill Russell directs here, and he should know what he is doing because he's directed it on numerous occasions already and also happens to be the co-author of the book and lyrics.

His experience of knowing just what the show should be is evident right from the opening number, and the result is a glitzy, slick endeavour which embodies enough comedy to make for a fun and appealingly entertaining evening.

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