Renaissance Theater in Orlando, FL

Created by Donald Rupe

Arrangements and Musical Direction by Jason M. Bailey

Directed by Sara Catherine Barnes

Choreography by Adonus Mabry

Starring Blake Aburn, Kendall Leamy, and Kristie Geng

Renaissance Theater, Orlando, Florida

Do they still HAVE beauty pageants anymore? Well, they do in musical theater. It’s a great structure to unite disparate characters in a pointless struggle for a meaningless title, like “Miss Golden Boots.” That pageant takes place in the slightly but not very mystical city of St. Crowd, Florida. That factoid came from the digital program; on stage I heard it as an actual city’s name. No matter. The queen bee on stage is Becky Buckley (Geng). She won a pageant title way back in the first Bush Administration and now she’s training her snooty daughter Breanna (Rebecca Jo Lightfoot) for that same gig. They’ve brought in an alcoholic Russian dance instructress Svedka Stolichnaya (Aburn) to whip the young’ns into beauty pageant shape. A hustle here, a hustle there, and soon Svedka is missing. You know how things in Russia are going these days. But she returns, all the right contestants get a crown, and we all trundle next door for an opening night shot of vodka. Na zdorovye!

I missed the premier of this show in the Orlando Fringe a few infections ago, and the only comparison I can make is this show runs much longer: it’s three hours including intermission. But the story was solid, the gags all connected, and everyone loved Svedka even thought she’s Russian. We’ll give her a break as writer Rupe put this script together long before the current unpleasantness in the Ukraine reared up. Becky (Betty Ann) took the reins as the stage mom from hell, and of course you can’t do a show about a pageant without an embittered older female that ALMOST won 20 years ago. And then there’s the rubbery Davis Minelli, (no relation to Liza Minelli) as the token male contestant allowed in by some obscure law. You knew he wouldn’t win, but he got plenty of gags, which is something. While the show is a good bit longer than it needs to be, the gags flow and you do care about the pageant and all its participants. Tickets are selling fast–bring your credit card, and be warned: the bar doesn’t take cash.


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