With shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, and the addition of such characters as Honey Boo Boo into our pop culture lexicon, it is little wonder they have became prime targets for parody. And to prove just how easy a target the world of child beauty pageants are, Vancouver’s Too Fly Productions are taking them to a whole new satirical level with the original new musical, Little Miss Glitz.
“After being captivated by the charming, loveable train wreck of Alana and Mama June, I became mesmerized by the idea and workings of child beauty pageants portrayed in reality television’s Toddlers and Tiaras,” says the show’s writer, Alan Pronger.
Little Miss Glitz not only takes inspiration from the genre, it also uses some of the same tropes.
“[Toddlers and Tiaras] more than anything inspired the content and themes of the musical, and led us to incorporating talking head confessional videos and fast-paced dialogue that reads as an episode of a reality show into the musical,” adds Pronger.
First developed as a jukebox musical in 2016, this latest version has been overhauled with original new songs from Vancouver composer, Christopher King. With the new music and scripts changes, Pronger sees this newest version of the story about a young girl navigating her first beauty pageant, as vastly different from its original form.
“The original songs allow for more character development and adds a richness to the character’s lives we couldn’t achieve the first time,” says Pronger.
More than simply a parody of beauty pageants though, Pronger also sees it as a reflection of how society considers ideals of beauty, and the lengths individuals will go to be accepted.
“If you think about it, life is like a pageant,” he says. “We are all under different, arbitrary spotlights being judged every day of our lives. So, what do you do? Do you allow yourself to be completely changed by the opinions of others, or number of likes you receive? Or do you allow yourself to break free and let your inner diva shine?”
Playing the naïve and starry-eyed beauty pageant contestant Isabella, is actor, Katherine Alpen.
“Isabella is a young girl with a focus we should all strive for,” she says. “She’s got this blind determination that I admire infinitely; we should all fight for our dreams the way Isabella does.”
As one of the adults, Rebecca Piplica plays stepmom to eight-year old pageant queen, Mackenzie. A self-described “huge fan” of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms, Piplica can also see how potentially damaging they can be for both children and parent.
“I judge my character at times and it has been challenging understanding her motivations because these people act in ways that instinctively feel wrong to me, but that is what makes it so interesting,” she says. “Just like in real life, the characters are flawed, but they still have their good traits and are shaped and limited by their life experience. I think this helps to shape the dialogue and deal with the issues that the show raises.”
For Alpen, while Little Miss Glitz may be a parody, there is also reality among all the silliness that helps create the comedy.
“The beauty of tragi-comedy and parody is that the heart is real, but the circumstances are heightened above the norm,” says Alpen. “You just root yourself in the dream of your character, say it like you mean it, and let Alan Pronger’s script and the context do the funny work.”
And while a show like Little Miss Glitz may have its serious side, it is mostly about entertaining the audience.
“I think it is important sometimes to let your hair down, and maybe laugh at something you know you shouldn’t,” says Piplica. “And Little Miss Glitz definitely encourages you to do that.”
Alpen agrees. “Mostly I just want people to feel a little joy and maybe leave and find glitter in their house from the show months later.”
Little Miss Glitz plays Performance Works on Granville Island from March 16-31. Visit toofly.ca for tickets and information.