Rated 3.0 Jackie Schultz, owner of The Studio Theatre, knows her audiences. As well she should, after her theater’s record-breaking eight-year run of Six Women With Brain Death. The theater’s core audience, mostly women over 35, came out in droves throughout the years for the musical revue. And judging by Pageant’s opening-night response, it looks like Schultz will bring them in again with her new show.Pageant is a cheesy, tacky beauty pageant where giddy girls compete to be Miss Glamouresse, the proud spokeswoman of products for space-age beauties. The over-the-top schmaltz gently pokes fun at beauty pageants everywhere, complete with bathing-suit, evening-gown, talent and spokesperson competitions. The twist is that all the contestants are men portraying women. (And damn, if these drag-queen beauties aren’t better at it than most of us!)

In addition to watching the “women” compete in the various competitions, we get an over-earnest emcee, the contestants’ back-stabbing antics and questionable talents, and judges who are picked from the audience. The cast actually competes without knowing the outcome, because the judges are different at every production. This ever-changing ending makes the play appealing to return audiences (the secret to Brain Death’s success).

The fun, of course, is watching the men portray women. At intermission, there is a mad dash to read the program, which shows photos of what the actors look like without the makeup. The show’s a fun bit, and the cast embraces the concept with endless enthusiasm and energy.

However, the musical never really lives up to its potential. It’s safe and silly—basically, a few-note joke that screams for some edgy, raunchy humor. But what saves this show is the good-hearted intention of all involved: the endearing, multitalented cast; the animated audience; and the frilly dresses with matching heels.