When Alan Pronger set out to write his first jukebox musical, Little Miss Glitz, inspiration came from the most unlikely of places: reality shows like Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras.
In this Q&A with Pronger, we find out more about Little Miss Glitz, which premieres at Vancouver’s PAL Studio Theatre in March.
Q[/dropcap]Tell us a little more about Little Miss Glitz. What can audiences expect?
The musical takes a hard look at the exaggerated aesthetics and questionable parenting practices of shows like Toddlers & Tiaras to reflect on what modern society considers to be beautiful. Added to this very serious topic is an over-the-top portrayal of the moms and children caught up in the beauty pageant industry.
The story focuses on the heartwarming story of Isabella Connor, played by Paige Fraser, a frumpy and impressionable seven-year old, as she navigates the world of child beauty pageants for the first time. While at first pageants seem like a fun way to dress up, have fun, and get a foot in the door of stardom, Isabella soon discovers that the cutthroat world of pageants takes no prisoner. You have to fight to survive.
Q[/dropcap]Where did the idea come from?
The idea for the show came from where most great ideas come from: unemployment. I was taking a break between writing resumes and reading rejection letters, and began to watch Toddlers & Tiaras. While the show was starting, I asked myself the very obvious questions, why isn’t there a musical about child beauty pageants? After myself and my research assistant, Google, couldn’t find an existing musical about child beauty pageants, I decided to write it myself.
Over the next year and a half, I watched every single episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, which I called my “research”, and began to write the show while travelling for seven months around Australia and Southeast Asia. The one thing people don’t talk about when it comes to traveling is just how much time you spend waiting for trains and sitting on buses, so I had a lot of time.
Q[/dropcap]This is adults playing the beauty pageant kids – does that add to the parody?
Absolutely. Most great parodies exaggerate a familiar situation out of context. Seeing pictures of child beauty pageants or watching shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or Toddlers & Tiaras makes most people cringe at how wrong the whole situation is. However, watching the same things happen to adults acting as kids is hilarious.
Q[/dropcap]Were you a fan of reality shows like Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers and Tiaras?
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers & Tiaras are great television. They make you cringe, laugh and shake your head all in the same episode. Both shows gave me so much material that one of the hardest parts of writing the show was editing good bits out.
Q[/dropcap]The show is a jukebox musical – what types of songs are being used? Have you changed the lyrics?
The show mainly draws on pop hits from artists like Madonna, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, One Direction and the Spice Girls to help tell the story. However, the show also uses music from hip hop and musical theatre in its storytelling. I spent a lot of time while shaping the story of the show to make sure the songs made sense in context. As a result, I didn’t have to change the lyrics to most songs, with a few minor exceptions.
Q[/dropcap]Each night members of the audience get to choose a winner – why did you decide on that format?
I spent a few weeks trying to decide the best way to end the story. I toiled over who would be the best winner and runner up of the musical to best convey its message. However, then I realized that it didn’t matter. No matter who wins the pageant, the message of the story still gets through. In a way, this only helps with the message of the show. We’re not telling you who should win or what the best qualities of a person are. We are leaving it to chance and letting you decide. Beauty is, after all, completely arbitrary.
Before each show, a panel of judges will be selected from the audience by our judge wrangler. These judges will get front row seats during the show to score the contestants during their three rounds of competition. During the final scene, the judges’ scores will be tallied by our cast, and the winners will be announced based on these scores. No one knows the end of the show until it is announced live on stage.
Q[/dropcap]Is there an underlying message?
The primary purpose of the show is to criticize the industry of child beauty pageants, but more than anything, we want the audience to reflect on their own ideas of beauty and how they perceive themselves. There is a clear double standard when it comes to child beauty pageants. We look at child beauty pageants and we are horrified. How could these parents put all that make up, fake hair, spray tans and ridiculously expensive clothing on their kids? Can they actually think this is beautiful? Yet, if you think about it, nothing these parents do to their children is different from what we do to ourselves as adults. We are horrified when it happens in child beauty pageants because we see children as innocent, pure, and beautiful in their own right. However, somewhere down the line, we begin to think that our differences are imperfections, and we deserve all the torture of modern beauty standards to cover them up.
If you think about it, life is a pageant. We are all on stage being judged every day of our lives. So what do you do? Do you allow yourself to be completely changed by the competition to impress some unknown judges who are off somewhere making completely arbitrary decisions, or do you break free and allow your inner sparkle to shine? The decision is yours.
Little Miss Glitz plays the PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St, Vancouver) March 11-26. Visit https://littlemissglitz.ca for tickets and information.