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Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly

Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly

Conceived by Howard Crabtree & Mark Waldrop
Mark Waldrop (Sketches & Lyrics); Dick Gallagher (Music)
New Conservatory Theatre Center

New Conservatory kicks off Gay Pride Month with a silly, outrageously costumed remount of Howard Crabtree’s autobiographical theatrical coming out story, When Pigs Fly. While the ensemble, including two SF musical theatre superstars (David Bicha and J. Conrad Frank), works their asses off, its just falls short of taking flight. Yes, there are some sweet and funny moments, and the lyrics sometimes smart, but the play feels dated and somehow heavy when it should be light and carefree.

The plot revolves around Frank’s Howard (dressed in a Liberace, white feathered cowboy costume) and his uber gay quartet of pals as they attempt to stage a threadbare musical review. Props fail, cues a missed, and Howard continually questions his sanity and viable vocational options (gardener, watch maker, etc.). There are references to old showbiz trivia as well as some updated material from composer Dick Gallagher and lyricist Mark Waldrop to bring the production to modern times.

David Bicha plays the bitchy diva, a foil to Frank’s wide-eyed, unfailing optimism. Chris Plank, Ryan Vasquez and Phillipe Gosselin round out the ensemble and each get ample opportunity to shine. The performances are often upstaged by the wild costumes, designed by the team of Wes Crain, Keri Fitch and Jorge Hernandez. Joe Wicht, who appeared in the cast of the 1996 production, is musical director.

In 1996, the play embodied an empowering optimism, the hero succeeding on the face of criticism and disdain. Overcoming all odds, Howard realizes his theatrical dream. Its corny, Mickey Rooney ‘let’s put on a show’ fun. Howard does achieve his goal of a low-budget masterpiece, but today’s gays have much more to chew on than a lot of ham.

Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly continues through June 10th, 2018 at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at or by calling 415-861-8972.

Photo credit by Lois Tema.

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