More Midsumma mania – going the lowbrow route

Midsumma’s drawing to a close for 2012, and I haven’t got to nearly as many shows as I would have liked. I left my run too late for tickets to Nath Valvo’s Grindr – A Love Story? – he’s all sold out! And while 37 Ways to Say I’m Gay, Twinkie and the Bear and Andy & Jonny present: Cocktails and Cocktaleswere all on my list, it just didn’t happen.

Glenda Waverley enjoys the company of the Leather Marys at DT's Golden Stiletto Rally.

I did get to DT’s Golden Stiletto Rally and Foam-a-Sexual at The Peel – neither event is what you’d call ‘highbrow’, but they were both a lot of fun. And sometimes that’s all you need.

I did get to see a show this week that was also a lot of fun, but where it sits on the ‘Brow Scale’ is not easy to define. I’d say it was highbrow with lowbrow inspiration.

The show is called Pageant – The Musical, and as you’d expect, it’s a beauty pageant of sorts, sponsored by the fictitious Glamouresse beauty products label. It’s set in the United States, of course, and has a great time parodying beauty pageants and American culture and sensibilities.

Miss Texas lends a helping hand in 'Pageant - The Musical'.

Hosted by Frankie Cavalier, there are six contestants: Miss Texas, Miss Bible Belt, Miss Industrial North East, Miss West Coast, Miss Deep South and Miss Great Plains. They’re men playing women, of course, but it’s not drag – not as we know it, anyway. The irony is that even though they’re presenting as women, they are obviously men. And without going overboard with self-awareness and satire, the show manages to comment on what it is to be a woman, beauty preconceptions, and what is passed off as talent in this age of reality TV competition programs.

It’s all gloriously tacky and cheesy, and while some of the ladies possess real talent: Miss Texas knows how to tap dance, Miss Deep South has impressive ventriloquist skills, and Miss Bible Belt knows how to ring those bells, but my favourite ‘talent’ was Miss West Coast’s interpretive dance. While displaying remarkable dancing skill, she also lampoons modern dance and its pretension.

Every performance, five judges are picked from the audience, and the pageant’s winner is determined by these randoms. I don’t know how or why, but i was singled out to be one of these judges. And as a result, Miss Industrial North east won the crown that night, largely because of her blissfully unaware and appalling performance on the piano accordion. For me, this alone epitomised the sly dig Pageant takes at self-delusional beauty queens.

Pageant finishes this Saturday, February 4, so get in quick if you like the sound of it. As for me, I’ll be having quite a cultural day that day, with the MSO’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in the afternoon, and A Chorus Line that evening. And then maybe Pride March on Sunday – if I’m up for it…

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