The Forum Theatre in Metuchen offers this wonderfully silly and howlingly funny show.

By: Stuart Duncan
   Pageant, a musical comedy, has been around for a few weeks; in fact it’s making a triumphant return to the Forum Theatre in Metuchen. I missed it on its first visit — my loss, as it turns out. The show is wonderfully silly and howlingly funny.
   We are attending the finals of this year’s Miss Glamouresse beauty pageant. The half dozen semi-finalists are there, ready to don their gowns, strut their stuff in swimsuits and demonstrate their individual talents at dancing, singing, poetry recitation or ventriloquism. Just as important, each one will be given the opportunity to show skills as a Glamouresse spokesperson. Before the evening is over, we also will meet the outgoing beauty queen to see how the year has treated her. And all this will be emceed by the famous Frankie Cavalier, smile and all.


The Forum Theatre in Metuchen presents Pageant through April 28.

   But first we will meet the contestants, and they certainly are an intriguing bunch. Miss Bible Belt, naturally enough, will sing "I’m Banking on Jesus" as her talent contribution. Miss Texas comes with her riding togs and her own fences to jump. Miss Deep South has a pair of puppets, each with a "sho ‘nuf" accent and singing voices to match. Miss Industrial Northeast is a refugee from Puerto Rico. Then there’s Miss West Coast, undoubtedly flying on something, but not a plane, and Miss Great Plains, a studious girl who graduated from college with a double major — home economics and cancer research. Playing throughout the competition are the PitBulls, featuring Larry Rothweiler conducting from the keyboard.
   The book, by Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, is a cross between Saturday Night Live and a self-conscious college show. The music, by Albert Evans, recalls every Miss America Pageant for years, somehow without plagiarizing. Peter Loewy has directed with obvious glee. Inbal Gildin has designed some excitingly tacky outfits for "the girls." And Jason Teague has spared any expense on a set that reeks of burlesque. You will laugh yourself sick as we get down to the award ceremony and Frankie Cavalier (played by Allen Rickman) starts to sing "She’s The One." Yes, I think I have covered it all; haven’t missed anything important.
   Let’s see — did I mention all the girls are guys in drag? Ian August, Terry Burnett, Ed Carlo, Ryan Connolly, Glenn Klein and Paul Whelihan. Six of the most talented "girls" you will ever see.
Pageant runs at the Forum Theatre, 314 Main St., Metuchen, through April 28. Performances: Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. Tickets cost $25. For information, call (732) 548-0582. On the Web: www.akidsforum.com/mainstage.html