Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Laughter Reigns When Pigs Fly
at Thumpers Oak Room

Mark Willis, Greg Bowman,
Jacob Mahoney, and Jay Irwin

Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly was one of the lightest, brightest and, yes, gayest revues to grace Off-Broadway in the mid-1990s, even outdoing its potent precursor Howard Crabtree's Whoop-Dee-Do, taking home the 1996 Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, OBIE, Theatre Wing and Lucille Lortel Awards. After nearly a decade, the show arrives in Seattle at the suddenly red-hot Oak Room at Thumpers, and (cramped stage space aside) the Gaydar production, hot on the high heels of the company's hit last year, Bed, Boys, and Beyond, is a dizzy delight.

Crabtree, the imaginatively zany costume designer who passed away just as his work on the original production was completed, conceived an onstage version of himself. The onstage Howard is determined to put on a fabulous revue, despite nagging memories of a certain old biddy high school guidance counselor (Miss Roundhole) who does her best to dissuade him from dreaming his show-biz dreams. Gaydar director Rick Anderson has brought back his entire Bed, Boys and Beyond company, plus the jovial Jay Irwin and pianist/singer Mikel Poulsen, to romp through sketches by Mark Waldrop and jubilant songs by lyricist Waldrop and wonderful composer Dick Gallagher (whose recent passing was a sad loss to audiences and friends). Director Anderson has also designed some gloriously gaudy and wacky costumes, catching the spirit of Crabtree's own, but on a more modest budget.

This true ensemble effort gives everyone in the cast a chance to sparkle. Marc Willis embodies the exuberance of the real Howard, and his robust vocals are at the core of the delicious harmonies the cast displays in the title tune, a pink, white and blue gay anthem entitled "You Can't Take the Color Out of Colorado," and especially in his best featured turn as the frilliest of a trio of Restoration-era fops in "Wear Your Vanity with Pride." The ample voice and showmanship of Chuck Tracy are abundantly evident in his pro gay marriage "Hawaiian Wedding Song," and the rousing "Bigger is Better," while taking great delight impersonating the nasty old Miss Roundhole.

Kevin Novreske does well by the show's cleverest number, "Sam & Me," which reveals how much gay subtext there was in a certain bewitching '60s sitcom. Mikel Poulsen milks every laugh possible out of his recurring "Torch Song," dedicated to the likes of Strom Thurmond, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. The show's male ingenue, attractive Jacob Mahoney, is charming in a number in which he reveals his equine dilemma entitled "Not All Man." Greg Bowman is a howl as a doyenne of the dinner theatre circuit presenting her season's "Coming Attractions," which are not as far fetched as they might initially seem, what with one being a Hunchback of Notre Dame musical, and another Annie 3. Jay Irwin is the cast cut-up (think Paul Lynde meets Bruce Vilanch) and just when you think all his solo numbers are going to be interrupted, he launches into a sincere and poignant rendition of the show's one serious number, "Laughing Matters." All of course ends on an upbeat note, with the cast singing the fitting finale "Over the Top."

The Oak Room at Thumpers may not allow this When Pigs Fly the luxury of spaciousness, but that's all that's missing from this captivating production, a throwback to the kind of great pastiche musical revue that nobody writes anymore.

When Pigs Fly runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 PM through April 9, at the Oak Room at Thumpers. For reservations call (206) 323-3800.

- David-Edward Hughes

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