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San Francisco by Richard Connema

When Pigs Fly Is Brash And Brassy

Also see Richard's review of The Palm Springs Follies

When Pigs Fly
Trauma Flintstone, Daniel Howard, Patrick Michael Dukeman; front: Jeff Manabat
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is presenting the gay musical revue Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly at their theatre at 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco thru June 28. I saw the review when it first opened off Broadway in 1996 and it knocked my socks off. Since that time, this exhilarating two act original musical has played in almost every major city in the United States. The music by Dick Gallagher is jaunty and tuneful and lyrics by Mark Waldrop are sharp and witty. This is a real great musical comedy revue. Michael Sommers of The Star Ledger sums it up beautifully by calling it “A Hog-Heaven of silliness.” Clive Brooks of the New York Post said “This show is user-friendly for straights.” I totally agree with both critics.

Howard Crabtree was a costume designer whose stock in trade was outrageous comic extravagant costumes. He had an immediate success with a off Broadway musical called Whoop-Dee-Doo! which featured these fantastic outfits. Mr. Crabtree followed this up with When Pigs Fly and even more incredible outfits. Tragically, Crabtree died of AIDS shortly before Pigs opened.

When Pigs Fly is Howard Crabtree’s (Patrick Michael Dukeman) dream-autobiography in which his career counselor Ms. Roundhole (Daniel Howard) recommends plumbing, watch-making, chicken farming or gardening supplies as Howard’s only career choices since he would only be a success in theater “when pigs fly.” However, Howard only wants to be Dream Curley on the stage and produce a big extravagant Broadway musical. He becomes the lead, director, producer and designer for his lavish musical revue. With a group of proudly out actors, he tries to mount the evening's entertainment which observes such topics as unreciprocated love, single sex marriages and the how to do drag properly.

Mark Waldrop’s sketches and lyrics set to Dick Gallagher’s music keep up with Crabtree’s imagination. There are so many brilliantly comic and wild scenes that it is hard to pick out the greatest. Daniel Howard sings “Not All Man” while emergin on stage as a Centaur. Howard turns on his serious side with the song “Sam and Me” in the second act. Jeff Manabat is marvelous singing torch songs “cocktail style” for his love for Dick Chaney, Pat Robertson and Charlton Heston. The clever, recently update lyrics are priceless, causing the audience to roar with delight. The actor that glows in every scene is Trauma Flintstone, who has been doing drag here for 14 years. He plays the ultimate Queen in every sketch and his mannerisms and overall stage presence make for a great evening. His performance as the head of a small time community theater called “Musical Barn” (with coming attractions that include of a new musical called “Quasimodo” with the lead singer singing “I’ve Got a Hunch I'm In Love”) is marvelous. Sean Ray is very good in his performance of “Bigger Is Better.” He looks like a Mae West type strutting around on the small stage.

Patrick Michael Dukeman, one of our better musical talents in the Bay Area, is excellent as the Howard Crabtree character or Dream Curly. Michael plays the character more softly and wispy then the original Michael West. Dukeman is particularly exceptional in “Hawaiian Wedding Day.”

The “big” production numbers are brilliant, such as the Patriotic finale of the first act. The song is about the diversity of the country and how you can’t take the gay population out of that mixture, with state songs proclaiming you can’t take the "color" out of Colorado, the "Mary" out of Maryland, the "sissy" out of Mississippi or "homo" out of Oklahoma. The opening of the second act is a knockout with three cast members as stiff sixteenth center Frenchmen in preposterously hilarious costumes and monster head dresses. The other two also dress up in front of a dressing table that suddenly becomes a group of elaborate hoop skirts. The last scene is also a hoot - it has to be seen to be believed.

Pianist Tom Shaw is excellent as he accompanies these talented actors on the stage, and the direction and chorography by Earl Weaver is exceptional. George Quick as the musical director gives this revue its melodic good feeling outlook.

Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly has been extended through August 10 at the NCTC, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. For tickets called 415-861-8972 or on line at www.nctcsf.org.


Photo: Lois Tema


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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