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'Pageant' Leaves The Outcome To The Audience

Michael Taggart, flickr Creative Commons
A production of 'Pageant.'

It has been more than half a century since my mother entered me in a Beautiful Baby contest. I did not win, but as I have no memory of the event, I have been able to carry on quite nicely in spite of it.

While some people point to the Greeks for the origin of the beauty competition (the contestants were Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, and the top prize was a golden apple), it was PT Barnum who introduced the event to the American masses in the mid-19th century. Barnum overcame the reticence that proper Victorian-era ladies felt at being exhibited by using photographs, rather than the women in person.

In 1921, in an attempt to hold on to summer visitors past Labor Day, Atlantic City produced its first Miss America beauty pageant. Organizers promoted the event as healthy competition for wholesome young women—and fine role models for little girls.

The 21st century has seen a steady waning of popularity of such contests, but Roxy's Downtown is bringing it back—or a version of it, anyway, with the comic audience-participation musical Pageant, by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly.

Six manly competitors strut their drag to vie for the title of Miss Glamouresse and the chance to act as spokesmodel for Glamouresse Cosmetics. Judges are chosen from members of the audience, so the possibility is good that the winner could change nightly.

Pageant is on stage at Roxy's Downtown through September 12th.