"Pretty ... is only pretty. . . . There are a million ways to make a nice physical impression." So begins "Ken Roht's 99-Cent Only Calendar Girl Competition" at the Bootleg Theater. Even longtime fans are unprepared for what follows. Irreverent musical theater visionary Roht achieves absolute synthesis with this marvelous gloss on beauty pageants and the politics of image.
Conceived and created during the presidential election, "Competition" takes the price-conscious aesthetic elements on a runway strut to another realm altogether. Twelve contestants vie for Miss Calendar Girl of 2009, as pageant maven Miss Sissy (the incomparable Sissy Boyd) informs us from her Skycam. Their entrance is hilariously hallucinogenic, with peerless designer Ann Closs-Farley collaborating with guest costumers and each extraordinary creation sponsored by a different local entity.
Spurred on and lived through by purple-hued Loved Ones, escorted by tireless Go-Go MCs, these heavenly eyefuls are worth admission, though put-upon Dark Miss Sissy (Uma Nithipalan, vivid as ever) would rather sweep poseurs into the dustbin. Intermission brings about voting in the lobby, amid tally board mayhem that echoes Nov. 4 network coverage. After five semifinalists roll on in shopping carts, the molecular-slanted Act 2 evolves into hopeful allegory before our bedazzled eyes.