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Real men wear heels

The beauty queens competing for the title of Miss Glamouresse 2008 at the Egyptian Theatre Wednesday can do everything men can do, except they can do it backwards and in high heels.

Never mind that they actually are men. These beauty queens are queens, men in female attire with chiseled jaws, tarantula-sized hands and pads bouncing about their chests.

"Pageant," the legendary talent show spoof now playing at Park City’s nonprofit theater, stars female characters from Texas, the Great Plains, the Deep South, the Industrial Northeast, the West Coast and the Bible Belt. The musical comedy plays through Oct. 18 with reduced ticket prices for Park City residents Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Marc Raymond, who is more than six-feet tall with large hands, looks both ravaged and ravaging in a simple black dress with a diamond brooch pinned to his waist at a rehearsal Wednesday, the cast’s second run-through in costume.

"It’s not just a drag show," quips Raymond, who reprises his roles as Miss Great Plains for the third time in Park City. "There’s a hint of reality to what we’re doing."

He points to a comely redhead on stage wearing a sash that reads "Miss Bible Belt" and says, "That’s a woman."

Recent weeks have been kind to beauty queens with the unlikely emergence of Alaska Governor Sara Palin, the former Miss Wasilla who is now a major attraction on the Republican presidential ticket.

When asked if Palin’s meteoric rise to fame adds to the timeliness of "Pageant," Raymond flashed a smile. "That’s a good question for an interview, but our show is pure laughter," he said.

The show pokes fun at many demographics, Raymond says, but never with a closed fist.

This year’s "Pageant" is the first to have an all-female production crew. "On some level it looks like a drag pageant, but it’s not," said director Kirstie Gulick Rosenfield. "This is a show in which men play women."

Rosenfield added, "It does point out some of the absurdity of beauty pageants but it’s ultimately a comical musical that plays both sides of the fence."

Rosenfield and choreographer Janet Gray coached the men to move like women. "It allowed us to have those conversations with the guys about our ‘artificial radar,’" she said.

Gray instructed the men to walk with their clavicle over their toes. "You have to see what their bodies will do naturally," she said. "No one could learn an entirely new way of moving in four weeks."

The dance tips have been simple but effective. "Suddenly they’re all swishing their fannies like no one’s business," Rosenfield said.

Jason Tatom, who plays emcee Frankie Cavalier, describes the show as "Park City’s Saturday’s Voyeur" that is more farce than satire. There’s no political overtones, he said, no "allegory about the Iraq conflict."

Tatom starred in "Little Shop of Horrors" for the Egyptian Theatre, but he says that playing a philandering deejay for the divas is a more demanding job. "This is literally about a dozen times more work,’" he said.

Just don’t tell that to the ladies. It takes Tatom about a half an hour to don his costume, a simple suit and tie with modest stage makeup. Raymond, on the other hand, spends about an hour and a half tugging on pantyhose, wig and dress. He has to shave and pluck his facial hair before putting on his face. "I’m working my butt off at least an hour," he says of his greenroom preparations.

The effect is dramatic and, Raymond hopes, winning. "Wearing sweatpants with your heels just doesn’t do it," he said.

The show includes an evening gown competition, a swimsuit showdown, tap dancing, poetry recitations and plenty of singing.

Besides the logistics of managing several changes in wardrobe, organizers had to find clothes that would fit, and flatter, the male figure. One cast members wears size 15 shoes.

Raymond has lived in Park City for 13 years and says that people frequently inquire about the show. "I’m in touch with the community," he said. "If I’ve been asked one thing again and again it’s, ‘When is ‘Pageant’ coming back?’"

"Pageant" is different from standard stage productions because the audience members in the cabaret seats choose the winner every night. Raymond said people see the show multiple times because they miss lines laughing. "I don’t want to win," he pouts. "Some girls do but I don’t."

Tickets are on sale online at ParkCityShows.com or by calling 435-649-9371 Saturday, Sept. 13 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main Street. For more info visit http://www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org.


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