Musical Pays Tribute to a Plus-Size Beauty Pageant

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Byline: Fred Crafts The Register-Guard

A musical by a Eugene native now working in New York and an interactive whodunnit open on Eugene-Springfield stages this week.

Pretty Faces

Actors Cabaret of Eugene

Friday through Feb. 21

The Girl Next Door always gets the guy in Broadway musicals, but what about the Other Girl Next Door? Shouldn't she have her moment in the sun, too?

OPENING THIS WEEK

Playwright Robert Cabell believes she should, so he wrote a musical for her. ``Pretty Faces'' opens Friday at Actors Cabaret of Eugene. Cabell is a Eugene native who now lives in New York City.

"The intent of the show,'' he says, ``is to take a contemporary classic musical situation and infuse it with The Other Girl Next Door, which is size 16 and up. The role models were `Kiss Me Kate' and `A Chorus Line,' bringing the two together and taking the audience on a ride."

The main stop on the journey is a beauty pageant, where the contestants let their hair down before emerging on stage as dazzling visions of loveliness. Cabell says the characters are transformed by the experience.

"They come on in exercise clothing and they wind up with their hair done up, makeup and jewels, standing in a spotlight singing, `This Moment is Mine.' The words are: `I never thought there would be a beauty pageant made for me' and `It feels so strange, it feels so new, this time I'm the ingenue,' ' Cabell says.

"There are no fat jokes. They are lusty, funny, cuddly women."

They are also based on real people. Born and raised in Eugene, Cabell, 48, was inspired to write the musical by his long friendships with local performers Tyrita Tracey, Jane Russell Wojick, Marietta Ernandez and Penny Jo Attwood. He met them when they played comic roles as Indian maidens in a production of "Annie Get Your Gun."

"I just took this image with me of the big chief being surrounded by all these lusty women, and I decided what if, instead of putting them in floppy gowns and pigtails and blacking out their teeth, people dressed them up and made them look gorgeous. And that's how `Pretty Faces' was born," Cabell says.

Cabell, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, got positive reviews for songs such as "Too Plump for Prom Night," "I'm Twirlin' for Jesus," "Solo for the Telephone" and ``42-32-42.''

"Pretty Faces: The Large & Lovely Musical" opened to enough acclaim in a small New York theater in 1985 that Cabell's backers moved it to an Off-Broadway venue in 1990. It got strong reviews there, too, but closed suddenly, Cabell says, when the promoters failed to file the necessary legal papers. The show has sat on the shelf ever since.

The new production at Actors Cabaret will be slightly different from the New York productions. The Off-Broadway version had 10 actors; the Eugene show will have eight.

The cast includes Erica Jean Pierson (Monique), Amanda Fackrell (Bobby-Joy), Nikki Pagniano (Delores), Ruby Mitchell (Pleasure), Theresa Boudreau (Paulette), Laura Holden (Patricia), Tyler Holden (Carter) and Bruce McCarthy (Roger).

As the show's producer and director, Joe Zingo has changed portions of the script. …