The musical tells the story of California’s Young American Miss Beauty Pageant of 1985. The production’s premiere on Broadway in 1988 was quickly eclipsed by the ballyhooed opening of Les Miserables, which effectively killed this musical theater gem, but Christ the King organizers view the musical as highly underrated and underperformed.
Smile, according to those involved in the production, is admittedly dated — one song in the production references Gerry Ferraro, President Reagan, and Gorbachev — but still captures an authentic youthful energy that exists in today’s teenagers and probes the struggles young people face in learning how to be themselves and disregard glitz and glamour.
In the play, the “girl-next-door” protagonist experiences the process of growing up by simply realizing that she does not want to be a Young American Miss, but having tried for it, looks forward to figuring out what she will be.
The interactions between teenage contestants — bonding, jealousy, gossip and consoling — are all presented realistically and comically. As part of the preparations for the production, the students are also experiencing the hairstyles, fashions and overall vibe of the 1980s setting.