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Footlight Players Provide Bit of Sparkle To “The Miss Firecracker Contest”



By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer

The want for notoriety, male attention, and freedom from a stale marriage drive three women in different paths for acceptance, as Footlight Players kick off their spring season with Beth Henley’s ‘The Miss Firecracker Contest’. As one looks to shine in a local beauty pageant, the second seeks unrequited love, with the third hoping to rid herself from the bonds of matrimony.

While not as well received as Henley’s award winning ‘Crimes of the Heart’, ‘Firecracker’ is a quirky and dry comedy that deals with feminine frailty, with Footlight Players capturing the essence of Henley’s intent. Set in the small town of Brookhaven, Missouri where everyone knows your name and even worse, your business, ‘Firecracker’ is a misguided tale of family acknowledgement and the zany characters surrounding them.

Veteran SC stage actress & daytime Blackbaud sales rep Kelly McDavid fits nicely in the title role of Carnelle, a young woman of 24 trying to erase her checkered and promiscuous past by entering the Miss Firecracker Contest. McDavid exudes all the exuberance and insecurity the character desperately needs, filling nicely a young woman trying to re-brand herself to her small community. Not to mention she sports the fire engine red hair well.

Andrea McGinn returns to Footlight stage stepping in the shoes of town newcomer Popeye Jackson, an eccentric and reserved seamstress willing to help Carnelle shine at the annual pageant. McGinn brings a certain amount of aloofness to Popeye, using her same unorthodox feminine wiles to woo Carnelle’s shallow & troubled cousin Delmount.

Making her Charleston SC stage debut, Keyla McClure is divine as Carnelle’s first cousin Elain, a former Miss Firecracker happily coming to terms with a failed marriage. McClure wraps herself up in the character, providing Elain with both bits of confidence and emotional uncertainty, yet never short on words or opinions.

Kyle Downs making his Footlight debut is quite believable as Delmount, the ill at ease town bad boy and selective Romeo. Often at odds with his sister Elain and Carnelle, Delmount fresh out of a mental facility has a singular purpose now that he’s returned to Brookhaven. Downs instills the right amount of pent up angst the character requires. Downs and McGinn are sweet and starry-eyed near the plays finale, as new found affections have overcome them.

In smaller yet pivotal roles, Xan Rogers and Emma Scott play off their adversaries quite well. Rogers enters as Mac Sam, Carnelle’s older and none the wiser ex-lover, proud of his loose sexual past and all the diseases that accompany such behavior. He brings a welcome nonchalant aspect to Mac Sam. Scott portrays pageant director Tessy as the playwright depicted, a self-assured yet fragile former paramour of Delmount, hoping the two might rekindle a fire Delmount was certain only burned once for him.

Footlight Director Shannon Horn and her assistant Erik Brower did a nice job of casting the respective roles. Kenneth Barnett provided a colorful stage, with the first act inviting audience members into the family sitting room and Act 2 depicting Carnelle’s pageant dressing area. As they do in so many stage productions Charleston Design & Rental dress the cast in appropriate costumes, especially the colorful red, white & blue pageantry attire Carnelle imagines.

‘The Miss Firecracker Contest’ provides theatre goers with a few laughs and an absurd story. The ensemble cast seem oddly matched and mismatched at the same time, which is underlying theme of the stage play. If you enjoy a bit of quirkiness and over the top performances than ‘The Miss Firecracker Contest’ will light up the stage and sparkle for you. Yes that’s a firecracker pun! Weekend performances thru April 28th.

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