The only original part is that audience members bother to laugh


Through Nov. 14

Tickets are $20-32


www.nctcsf .org

New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F.

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The only problem with a mock beauty pageant performed in drag by men in a gay theater, with real judges in the audience, to subvert the culture's glossy dominant paradigm of female beauty, is that -- well, there are a lot of problems, but the main one is it's been done before. Right? At least this musical comedy by Bill Russell, Frank Kelley, and Albert Evans feels like old cheese. Six ladies from different parts of the United States -- Miss Bible Belt, Miss Industrial Northeast -- strut and perform in "The 2005 Glamouresse Beauty Pageant," which is one long and blatant infomercial for Glamouresse makeup and beauty products. In the spokesmodel competition, the girls try to outdo each other promoting products like "Smooth-as-Marble Facial Spackle" or solar-powered hair rollers. There's a slick, Tommy Tune-like host ("Speaking of masculine flair," the ladies gush, in chorus, "just look at what he's done with his hair!") and musical numbers that all, in varying degrees, rather suck. "I'm proud of living on the San Andreas Fault," sings Miss West Coast, blinking under the hot lights. "I'd rather live on the edge than in a vault!" (Huh?) Making fun of something that borders on self-satire in the first place needs more energy than Russell and Kelley have put into the lyrics or book; the only original part is that people bother to laugh.

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