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Theatre in the Park’s “Pageant” Is Positively Perfect

Theatre in the Park will stage "Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest" on April 25-27 and May 1-4 and 9-11 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre in Raleigh (photo by Steven J. Larson)

Theatre in the Park will stage “Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest” on April 25-27 and May 1-4 and 9-11 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre in Raleigh (photo by Steven J. Larson)

Anyone who has sat through an actual beauty pageant knows that they can be long, arduous, and just not very interesting. The complete opposite is true of Theatre in the Park’s production of Pageant, directed by Ira David Wood IV. This pageant is everything you always wanted a pageant to be, plus “that something extra.” Featuring a hilarious cast of “natural born females” (translation: men in drag), wonderfully raunchy antics, and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, Pageant is simply the most fun you can have at the theatre.

Viewers get to watch as Miss Bible Belt (Brett Wilson), Miss Deep South (Thomas Porter), Miss Texas (Jesse R. Gephart), Miss Industrial Northeast (Jon Skinner), Miss West Coast (Chris Maxwell), and Miss Great Plains (Justin Tyler Ryals) vie for the honor of being a “Glamouresse” queen on a stage that looks exactly like a real pageant stage, complete with the system’s logo in the middle.

The contestants entertain through the evening gown, talent, swimsuit, beauty crisis counseling, and spokesmodel competitions, and each phase of competition is more hilarious than the last. The whole pageant is (quite poorly) held together by a drinking-and-getting-drunker host, Frankie Cavalier (Mike Raab), who adds to the fun. Plus, there are over-the-top costumes and dazzling, fun-to-watch choreography by Jade Carlisle. All of that adds up to a show that is entertaining and visually appealing and that every viewer will be sad to leave behind when the curtain closes.

While all of the “girls” give the performance their all, it’s only natural for favorites to form at a pageant. The easy favorite is definitely Gephart as Miss Texas. His character, a “richer than God” socialite, is given all the best lines, and Gephart milks them for all they’re worth. Viewers get to see his Miss Texas ride a giant rocking horse, make sexual jokes with a huge tube of lipstick, and look pretty darn hot in an evening gown. Also holding her own is Ryals’ Miss Great Plains. Not only does Ryals turn out a killer talent competition performance, but he’s also the prettiest (and most convincing) man in drag you’ll ever see. And then there’s Maxwell, who brings his character’s spaciness to hilarious life and who also doesn’t look half bad as a female either.

At the end of the night, the panel of judges get to choose their favorite, and by that time, there’s definitely some tension in the air. That’s because, even though viewers know they’re watching a play and that they’re watching men, this “pageant” takes on a life of its own. Without even realizing it, viewers become vested in the pageant as a real thing, accomplished in large-part by the audience participation that’s encouraged throughout. The winner changes with each performance, so those who don’t get to see their favorite girl win can always come back for another viewing. It’s best to act quickly, though, because it’s doubtful these tickets will be available for long. Pageant is just that fabulous.

Theatre in the Park presents PAGEANT at 7:30 p.m. May 1-3, 3 p.m. May 4, 7:30 p.m. May 9 and 10, and 3 p.m. May 11 in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $28 ($22 students, seniors 60+, and active-duty military personnel), except $20 per ticket for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6058 or SHOW: and




NOTE: All shows are wheelchair/walker accessible, and large-print playbills are usually available.


Pageant (1991 musical): (Samuel French Inc.).

The Script: (Google Books).

Robert Longbottom (conceiver): (Internet Broadway Database) and (Wikipedia).

Albert Evans (music): (Broadway

Bill Russell (book and lyrics): (Wikipedia).

Frank Kelly (book and lyrics): (Broadway

Ira David Wood IV (director): (Facebook page) and (Wikipedia).


Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click To read more of her writings, click and

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews