Theatre Mirror Reviews - "When Pigs Fly"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"When Pigs Fly"

Conceived by Howard Crabtree & Mark Waldrop
Sketches and Lyrics by Mark Waldrop
Costume Designs by Howard Crabtree
Music by Dick Gallagher
Directed by Rob Ruggiero
Music Direction by Steven Bergman

Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Sound Design by A. Stanley Gurzack
Wardrobe Supervisor and Wigs by Liz Fitzpatrick
Stitchers Morell Gardner, Liza Hope, Peg Carbonneau
Dressers Ashley Ayers, Sheilagh Cruikshank, Jeff Kerr
Stage Manager Susan Putnam

Howard.....Dan Bolton
Peter.....Peter A. Carey
Neil........Neil A. Casey
Scott......Scott J. Fisher
Brit........Britton White

How do you review a revue?.

A revue is just a musical comedy without a plot, right, or maybe a cabaret act with delusions of grandeur --- an irrelevant bit of schtick and fluff and "special material" good for a quick giggle or two and an hour later your mind is hungry again, right? WRONG. Let me put it this way: The Boston GLOBE hoisted its ostrich-plumed derriere high in the air when it buried Skip Ascheim's review of this landmark hot-ticket blockbuster hit on page 3 of their LIVING (oh and by the way some ARTS, too) Section instead of the paper's page one. "When Pigs Fly" makes the hand-me-down reruns coming to the Broadway houses look like warmed-over borscht and does it, as Spiro Veloudos (who DIDN'T direct it) says "Starring five BOSTON actors!!!" If this show doesn't extend its run there will be a lot of frustrated Bostonians envying the few who managed to get tickets.

"When Pigs Fly" may be the first show they've been connected with where you won't leave the theater whistling Janie E. Howland's set designs (a ruffly-flouncy deep green curtain and some light-strips) or John Malinowski's lights (bang-up-bang-down areas and some follow-spots) --- but you Will be whistling at Howard Crabtree's outlandishly hilarious costumes. Case in point: three stiffly sixteenth-century Frenchmen, in wigs (by Liz Fitzpatrick) as big as battleships strut about in the second-act opener "Wear Your Vanity with Pride" complaining of the pains it takes to dress dazzlingly. When Howland's curtain rises the other two in the cast, dressed as their lady-loves, are sitting in the wells of two dressing-tables, primping in invisible mirrors. For the final chorus these two stand, Wearing those dressing-tables as enormous farthingales! Crabtree's work has to be seen to be believed. And even Then..... ! (That of the Centaur is a horse-laugh and a half!!!)

The show is framed as Howard Crabtree's dream-autobiography --- his in-your-face revenge on the career-counsellor who recommended plumbing, watch-making, chicken-farming or gardening-supplies as his only career choices because he'd be a success in theater only "When Pigs Fly!: Well, even Howard's death from AIDS just days before the 1996 opening of this show cannot dampen the imaginative explosions of giggly gaga imagination that is his legacy to the universe. No one whose work is so fall-on-the-floor funny will ever be dead.

Mark Waldrop's sketches and lyrics set to Dick Gallagher's music keep up with Crabtree's imagination, but just barely. For instance there's a running-gag series of three torch-songs done by Peter Carey as a moony, disconsolate gay man bemoaning his luscious crushes on three famous unrequiting men whose names are --- Newt, Strom, and Rush??? There are three Elvis like-a-looks pierced in different bodily areas by Cupid's "Shaft of Love". There's a series of three mixmastered "Coming Attractions" for a small-time community theater trying to do new musical comedies on familiar themes like "Quasimodo???"

Probably homophobes should stay away from this show --- they'll die trying not to laugh. Anyone whose pacemakers might be thrown by a lot of laughing, clapping and shouting should be cautioned. Otherwise, you'll have to buy tickets quick, so you will know what everyone else at the party means when they say "...but you Said you wanted a big part where you can wear a boa!" and laugh at each other for the next five minutes.

The running time of the show with an audience is about two hours and a quarter. Without the laughs ---28 minutes, tops! And every second of it is astonishing.


"When Pigs Fly" (till 17 May)
140 Clarendon Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide