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Published by The Oklahoman – Read orignial article here

Originally published on January 30, 2015

Photo - Actor James Michael Avance undergoes a gender transformation by makeup artist Ryan Wood for Lyric Theatre’s production of “Pageant.”  Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman <strong>PAUL HELLSTERN</strong>

Theater review: PAGEANT is affectionate spoof at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City

Lyric Theatre’s production of ‘Pageant’ is a raucous look at men in drag competing for a beauty queen’s crown. The show continues through Feb. 15 in Oklahoma City.

When watching beauty pageants, are you surprised when your favorites don’t make the final cut? Are you appalled at the lack of talent some contestants exhibit? And do you sometimes question the judges’ qualifications when the winner is announced?

If so, head to Lyric at the Plaza to see “Pageant,” the opening production of the theater’s 2015 season. Inspired lunacy pervades this affectionate spoof of beauty pageants, a raucous look at what might happen if men (in drag) were competing for the crown.

Deftly directed by Ashley Stover, “Pageant” asks its finalists to compete in a half-dozen categories: evening gown, talent, swimwear, physical fitness, beauty crisis counseling and spokesmodel.

Authors Bill Russell, Frank Kelly and Albert Evans have zeroed in on stereotypical pageant types, ranging from the gregarious and clueless to the ditzy and earthy. But those are only guidelines for the contestants. Much of the show’s humor derives from how well the actors ply their craft.

We learn, for instance, that Miss Deep South (Shane Pruitt) is a college student with a double major in home economics and cancer research, that Miss Industrial Northeast (Ross McCorkell) is studying hairstyling by mail, and that Miss Bible Belt (Christopher Sieker) lists prayers and fasting as hobbies.

We also meet Miss Great Plains (Sheridan McMichael), a state fair winner for her iced tea recipe, Miss West Coast (James Michael Avance), a valley girl with multiple personalities, and Miss Texas (Tanner Lee Hanley), a pageant regular who works with the beauty impaired.

Doing double duty as the previous year’s winner, a woman who has since gained considerable weight, McCorkell milks that situation with comedic brilliance.

The six guys manage to pull off the nearly impossible task of passing as women thanks to Jeffrey Meek’s costumes and Ryan Wood’s makeup artistry. It’s not a stretch to say that at least two of the contestants could easily go undetected in public.

And if the musical’s one-joke premise periodically wears thin, the pageant’s emcee, played with outlandish flair by Monte Riegel Wheeler, keeps the evening moving along at a swift pace.

Since judges are chosen from the audience, the outcome is likely to change from one night to the next. At the opening night performance, Miss Great Plains won the crown by the slimmest of margins, beating Miss Texas by a single vote.

“Pageant” takes silliness to a whole new level, but since it approaches its task with affection and honesty, audiences have little trouble buying into the show’s outlandish premise. The sooner you’re able to do that, the more fun you’ll have.

Photo caption: Actor James Michael Avance undergoes a gender transformation by makeup artist Ryan Wood for Lyric Theatre’s production of “Pageant.” Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman PAUL HELLSTERN