The world premiere of Mister Miss America, written and performed by Neil D'Astolfo with direction by Tony Speciale, is full of wit and vulnerability. The play, produced by All for One Theater, follows Derek Tyler Taylor on and offstage at the Miss Southwestern Virginia competition as he makes history as the first male contestant in the pageant. The endearing charismatic performance, writing, and innovative technical production elements make the show sparkling crown worthy.
The play opens with a voiceover (by D'Astolfo) announcing all the contestants of this year's Miss Southwestern Virginia pageant as the spotlight tracks their imaginary entrances. After the introduction of Derek Tyler Taylor, the contestants are sent backstage to prepare for the swimsuit portion. Once in his dressing room, Derek begins to speak directly to the audience and informs us of his childhood dream of winning the pageant. When the audience meets Derek, they cannot help but fall in love with him and root that he wins. From his thick southern accent to his razor-sharp wit and dynamite pageantry Derek is a charismatic character. D'Astolfo smartly and expertly blends moments of hilarity with beats of truthful emotional honesty. As Derek moves through the competition, the audience is a fly on the wall for his swimsuit runway, show-stopping talent number, heartfelt question, and answer portion and beautiful pageant looks. Concurrently, Derek also shares his pain upon being heckled on stage and, later, his quandary upon finding his competitor's positive pregnancy test and the opportunity to disqualify his biggest competition and enemy. Derek treats the audience like his closest confidant, as he shares his love for Patti LuPone and all things pageantry. While the entire performance felt truthful and entertaining, the two drag, lip sync performance-Esque numbers are where D'Astolfo shines. He gives his all to these performances and they will surely stay in viewers' minds for a long time.
With costume design by Hunter Kaczorowski, lighting design by Travis McHale, and sound design by Sun Hee Kil, the technical elements of this show really make it sing. Due to the play's setting, the audience is privy to many jaw-dropping costume changes. The costumes are fabulous and pageant-worthy, and they also inform the character. The sound design paints a picture of the world and circumstances perfectly. From the announcements to the heckling from the crowd to the music, the sound design immerses the audience fully into the world of the play. The lighting design helps sell the story. The imaginary contestants are lit with spotlights that help the audience suspend their disbelief. The flashy pageant lights paint a picture of the environment. In addition, when moving from onstage to Derek's dressing room, the lights flicker and change to overhead, backstage lighting. These technical details and specificity make the show a magical experience.
Coming out of pride month, "Mister Miss America" is a reminder to accept diversity and act with acceptance and kindness. Not only is the show hilarious, but it is sure to win audiences over with its big heart. "Mister Miss America" is a must-see solo show this summer.
"Mister Miss America"
Written and Performed by Neil D'Astolfo
Directed by Tony Speciale
July 06 - August 07, 2022
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place, New York, NY)
CARMEN BURBRIDGE is a Brooklyn-based actor and writer, originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida. They have worked with New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse and The Farm Theater. It is her mission to create a convergence of hearts and minds in an effort to expose underrepresented stories and make the world a better place. They are passionate about trauma informed work, laughter, play and community.