By MORGAN WITTER
“The Miss Firecracker Contest” opened in Klein Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 12 to a chorus of oohs and aahs. One would think the show installed its own laugh track given the receptive glee of its audience.
The first mainstage production of the year, “The Miss Firecracker Contest” featured a six person cast and a small tech crew, and everyone involved in the production played their parts to perfection.
Audience members’ knowledge of the play upon entering ranged from absolutely nothing to a detailed account of the plot.
Sophomore Kevin Tertocha guessed that Firecracker would feature “a southern beauty pageant on the Fourth of July.” Junior David Denyer confirmed just that.
“The show is about the first integrated pageant,” Denyer explained. “Which, of course, means a lot of big hair.”
None of the audience expected the performances they saw. With quirky characters and perfected Southern accents, Firecracker’s stars utterly wowed.
Senior theatre major Kathryn Gigantiello shined as the show’s Firecracker hopeful, Carnelle Scott. Gigantiello’s character was vain and flighty, yet surprisingly sympathetic with her true to life insecurities.
Carnelle, whose lack of self-confidence earned her the reputation of promiscuous “Miss Hot Tomale,” hoped that, by winning the Miss Firecracker contest, she could be rid of her past and prove herself to her peers.
Gigantiello’s sugary sweet accent, feigned obliviousness and underlying guilelessness not only suited the character, but won over every member of the audience.
Emily Burke, a junior theatre major, sashayed on and off stage, embodying Elain Rutledge, Carnelle’s cousin, and a former Miss Firecracker who retained her beauty, poise and burning desire for attention.
Junior Kat Zeringue and junior Christian Morrow surprised the audience in Act Two as Tessy Mahoney and Mac Sam, respectively. Tessy featured big hair, while Mac Sam chain smoked his way into the hearts of the audience.
Popeye and Delmount, however, stole the show. Played by sophomore Claire Winkler and Stephen Nickens, the pair elicited laughter with every line and had the audience roaring whenever they were onstage together.
Popeye, Carnelle’s socially maladjusted seamstress, instantly falls in love with Delmount, Elain’s brother with a “checkered past.”
Delmount, newly released from his institutionalization, is put off by Popeye’s quirky nature, grimacing his way through her tangents about clothing frogs and her demands to wiggle his ears.
How these interactions ultimately lead to love may baffle some, but no one can deny that the strange couple was a good fit.
Nickens, a transfer student, was familiar with the show, having managed props for a performance of it at his previous school. Now playing one of the leads, Nickens emphasized the part of Delmount he liked the most: his rudeness.
Adding “temper tantrums” and “eye-rolling” to Delmount’s repertoire endeared himself to everyone.
Winkler, meanwhile, happy to play a “genuine and funny” character, worked especially on her “comedic timing.” Her work paid off. Every exaggerated detail added to her speech, and her actions resulted in laughter.
Both actors agreed that the best part of the show process was bonding with the cast and crew. Deep friendships were formed among the troupe during long, late-night rehearsal in preparation for Thursday’s opening.
Audiences will walk away joyfully from “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” a character-driven comedy full of laughter and feeling. The dedication of its cast and crew is evident in its entertaining execution.