Duly packed with glitter and backstage drama, “Pageant” is an entertaining look at the 34th Miss Gay America event, whose participants take winning the crown as seriously as ambitious contenders in any other high-stakes beauty (or reality-TV) competition. Colorful acts and personalities are well captured in Ron Davis and Stewart Halpern’s pic, which won the docu feature audience award at the San Francisco Lesbian & Gay fest. While myriad similarly themed docs in recent years haven’t made much theatrical headway, polished “Pageant” is guaranteed a full run of gay fests, followed by niche cable/DVD sales.
The elaborate annual Memphis affair — this one took place in 2005 — draws 52 winners of regional competitions to a four-day series of heats ranging from a private, male-dress interview with the judges to solo and full-production talent performances. This is old-school “art of illusion,” no female hormones or surgical enhancements allowed. Helmers focus on five diverse competitors, from a Disney World wellness coordinator (who does a sensational jitterbug with his straight male stage partner) to a professional female impersonator whose specialty is “doing” Reba McEntire (he’s actually toured with her). Assembly is sharp.