Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


When Pigs Fly
New Conservatory Theatre Center
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's reviews of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) and The Tin Woman and Patrick's reviews of Jesus Christ Superstar, Marjorie Prime, and What the Constitution Means to Me


Chris Plank, Philippe Gosselin, J. Conrad Frank,
Ryan Vásquez, and David Bicha

Photo by Lois Tema
Sometimes, amidst all the anger and angst that seems to be omnipresent (at least in the news), the soul cries out for silliness. For color, everywhere and on everything. It cries out for puns and double entendres and physical humor. Sometimes you just want to say "shut up, Kellyanne" and retreat to a safe place where you can laugh and try to forget all the bigotry and intolerance the world is still dishing out in double portions. For LGBT people (and our allies), one of those places is New Conservatory Theatre Center, which is presenting a revival of Howard Crabtree and Mark Waldrop's When Pigs Fly, a comedy revue of songs and sketches that relate (oh-so-loosely) the story of how young Crabtree overcame all those who said he'd never make a living performing or putting on shows.

The show began in New York in 1996 and had a successful two-year run. I will admit that during some of the numbers I thought "that's where this belongs—in 1996." Some of the humor feels dated (though much has been updated to the age of Trump, my favorite line being "I'm erecting something you can put your name on."), and the songs, with music by Dick Gallagher and lyrics by Mark Waldrop, are quite traditional in their structure. Moreover, while the message of equality and tolerance is well intentioned, with marriage equality the law of the land and America's sweetheart a lesbian, are songs like "Light in the Loafers," "Not All Man" or "Sam and Me" still timely?

And then I remember how, in the past year, attempts have been made to prevent transgender people from serving in the military, anti-LGBT adoption laws have been passed in several states, the current administration has chosen not to recognize Pride month and claims the Civil Rights Act doesn't apply to LGBT people, and I realize—sadly—that When Pigs Fly is still relevant.

And still entertaining. The five performers in this production—David Bicha, J. Conrad Frank, Philippe Gosselin, Chris Plank, and Ryan Vásquez—put every ounce of themselves into their roles, and their hard work pays off even when the material is a little dusty. They also benefit tremendously from the work done by the team of designers who created dozens upon dozens of costumes and wigs: Wes Crain, Keri Fitch, David Carver Ford, and Jorge R. Hernandez. It's one surprise after another, and from the playing cards to hoop skirt reveal to pastel pinstripes to the titular pig, they are capital F fabulous.

In the opening number, "When Pigs Fly," the lyrics lay out that a pig flying signals a magical time when ordinary rules don't apply and anything can happen. In this show, almost everything does, and when one of the characters asks, "Is all this frivolity called for?" I had to answer, if somewhat reluctantly, "absolutely!"

When Pigs Fly, through June 10, 2018, at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesdays-Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $35-$60, and can be purchased at NCTCSF.org or by calling 415-861-8972.


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