Albums

When Pigs Fly – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording 1996

When Pigs Fly – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording 1996

Listen

Synopsis

When Pigs Fly is a grab-bag of songs, dances, sketches, and running gags – unified by a gay sensibility that combines a love of traditional musical theater, a taste for outrageous visual humor, and a delight in shameless wordplay. These elements are strung upon the slenderest of plot threads. Once again Howard Crabtree is a mad genius costume designer, putting on the show he’s always dreamed of doing. Once again he’s beset by complications brought on by his oversized vision. Once again he triumphs over adversity with a final burst of inspiration. But the linking story is not where the focus lies. the individual numbers are the meat of the show. In When Pigs Fly the empty stage becomes a kind of dreamscape populated by Howard’s fevered imagination. The audience never knows who or what it will see next. A bare-breasted mermaid? A Garden of Eden tableau? Bette Davis as Baby Jane slinging a life-size Joan Crawford rag doll around? They all get into the act. (Though, alas, these three examples do not have musical numbers of their own and are therefore not represented on this recording.) Each freshly revealed character will have something to say, usually through song, that provides a skewed but revelatory reflection of what it is to be gay in the 1990’s. Though the spirit is gay – in both senses of the word – the tone is inclusive, and always the tilt is towards the universal. When Pigs Fly is completely accessible to anyone who can appreciate being smart and silly at the same time. Welcome to Howard’s world. Prologue – Excelsior Springs High School, 1972. Miss Roundhole (David), the guidance counselor from Hell, and her “sensible” career recommendations will return to torment Howard (Michael) throughout the show as things go progressively more awry. One question haunts him: Could she have been right? [NOTE: For those of you who might not know, Dream Curly is a featured role in Oklahoma. In high school productions it’s usually delegated to any boy able – or willing – to dance in a “dream ballet.”] We boomerang back to the here and now. Howard, joined by his pastel-clad Dream Curly cohorts, kicks off the evening with a traditional bouncy title song, “When Pigs Fly.” During the number, Howard’s high school Dream Curly ensemble (a rather crude attempt at cowboy glamour, featuring denim, glitter, glue, and ric-rac) is replaced by a snappier all-pink version with rhinestones and spangled vinyl chaps. Advice to the lovelorn from four big queens: “You’ve Got to Stay in the Game.” The mistresses of Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, and Clubs see what’s in the cards for players who’ve been disappointed in romance. Torch singers traditionally love someone who doesn’t love them (“Torch #1”). But Jay, clad in an impeccable white dinner jacket and brandishing a chiffon hankie, carries the genre to extremes. Song-and-dance men David and John strike a blow for daring to be who you are (“Light in the Loafers”), illuminating their point with light-up footwear. Stanley as Carol Ann Knippel, a small-town theatrical impresario with a mission: to save musical comedy as we know it. Armed only with paper, pen, and a blissful lack of taste, she gives it her all (“Coming Attractions”). Along the way she’s aided and abetted by John as Quasimodo, Jay as Esmeralda, David and Michael as gargoyles, and John and Jay again acting as butlers to a certain aging Broadway diva. David plays a hunky centaur (“Not All Man”) who’s never bothered to look over his shoulder and see what’s instantly apparent to everyone else. Jay serves up another helping of unrequited love (“Torch #2”). This seems to be a pattern with him. “A Patriotic Finale” – Yes, it’s that staple of the revue form, an old-fashioned flag-waver. John, in a Music-Man-inspired band uniform, leads the cast in a spirited reminder to those who may have forgotten that America’s strength lies in her diversity. Stanley puts in an appearance as the Statue of Liberty. ACT TWO. Restoration-era dandies and their ladies, staggering under oversized wigs and suffocated by their corsets –but willing to endure any torment for the sake of looking good – make a surprising point: the audience has more in common with them than it might imagine (“Wear Your Vanity with Pride”). In a typical Crabtree touch, by the end of the number the ladies are literally wearing their dressing tables as skirts. “Hawaiian Wedding Day:” Michael, in sailor’s whites, imagines the possibilities. Jay, as a nearsighted Cupid, presents three hapless victims of his erratic archery (“Shaft of Love”): John, Stanley, and Michael, looking refugees from a bad ’70s lounge act. They sport sparkly pink arrows through the heart, head, and crotch, respectively. David, with the ditty “Sam and Me,” proves people aren’t always who and what you think they are. Stanley, as usual, gets in the last word. John, plumed and bejeweled à la Betty Grable, becomes a generously proportioned showgirl (“Bigger Is Better”), the perfect embodiment of Howard’s entertainment credo. “Torch #3.” This man needs help. Jay drops the chiffon hankie and addresses audience members who might feel that – in view of what’s going on in the world today – the evening’s frivolity is … um … inappropriate (“Laughing Matter”). Finale: “Miss Roundhole Returns,” “Over the Top,” “When Pigs Fly” (reprise). Howard exorcises Miss Roundhole and finishes his show with one bold master stroke: an opulent Ziegfeld-style showgirl parade wherein the “showgirls” are decked out in – among other things – kitty-kat wall clocks, rubber chickens, plastic swan planters, and shower curtains trimmed in toilet brushes. Howard is transformed into the dreamiest Dream Curly imaginable, complete with twenty-gallon hat and white feather chaps sprinkled with strobing stars. Individuality triumphs over conformity. And – oh, yes – a pig flies. – Mark Waldrop

Credits

The Company: Stanley Bojarski Keith Cromwell John Treacy Egan Daniel Pevsner Joy Rogers and Michael West as Howard The Orchestra: Piano, synthesizer: Dick Gallagher Bass, electric bass: Bill Ellison Drums: Bruce Doctor Percussion: Jim Baker Tenor sax, alto sax, flute, piccolo: Andy Drelles Electric guitar, ukulele, steel guitar, banjo: Kevin Kuhn