Book and lyrics by Clint Jefferies
Music by Paul L. Johnson
Directed by Jeffery Corrick
Wings Theatre
154 Christopher St. (627-2961)
Equity showcase (closes Oct. 21)
Review by Doug DeVita

Clint Jefferies's OOBR Award-winning musical Cowboys has returned to the Wings Theatre to kick off the new season, and it is still one of the smartest, gayest shows in town (and I mean gayest in every sense of the word). The cheerfully inane work, with a tuneful, top-notch country/western score by the gifted Paul Johnson, is a lighthearted spoof of those old "Singin' Cowboy Westerns" from the 1940s, with a plot right off a Republic Pictures sound stage.

Con-artist Boston Bart Black schemes to steal Aunt Rosie's "Straight Arrow Ranch" because of the oil that is flowing underneath. Rosie's collection of stray gay ranchhands plan a Wild West Show to raise the $300 needed to save the place, aided by their star cowpoke, Ranger Rick Rowdy of the Texas Rangers, and hindered by the evil chanteuse, Lilly Luscious. All ends happily as Ranger Rick proves he always gets his man - in the end.

The stock story, the stereotype characters, and the racy double entendres are not new, of course. In fact, there were moments when the corn was higher than the proverbial elephant's eye. What lifted this production out of the typical gay sex farce arena was the charming and tasteful way everything was put together. Clint Jefferies's book is a witty, tightly focused spoof that shows a real knowledge of and affection for the genre, his genuinely funny lyrics nicely abetted by the aforementioned Paul Johnson's superior score. (Anyone bemoaning the lack of good musical comedy composers should just stop whining and hire Johnson - he is the real thing.) Jeffery Corrick directed with a sure sense of the energy and style required for this type of show, supported by Kate Dowe's snappily inventive choreography.

With one exception, all of the fabulous original cast returned for this engagement, and all of them remained in top form. John Lavin, as Ranger Rick, had just the right mix of innocence and swarthy sex appeal; Daniel Carlton, as the scheming Bart, was a neurotic delight; and Jim Gaddis as the mysterious Injun Bob was inspired, his Charleston to a war-dance beat one of the funniest moments in the show. The sweetly goofy Stephen Cabral once again stopped the show with his number, "The Girl from Texarkana", another riotous highlight. Judy Kranz was a saucy, winning Aunt Rosie, and Steven Baker, Steve Hasley, and Andrew Phelps, as "The Croonin' Caballeros," added immeasurably to the fun ¯ Hasley in particular throwing himself into the proceedings with infectious glee. The one newcomer to the cast, Laura Sechelski as Lilly Luscious, fit seamlessly into the ensemble, and if she didn't have her predecessor's calculating brassiness, her icy hot tempestousness and terrific voice made her a Lilly to be reckoned with.

Sam Sommer's sets, Tom Claypool's costumes and Aaron Spivey's lighting were breathtakingly lovely, effortlessly evoking a nostalgic, wide-open west, particularly the scenes under the starry night sky.

Welcome back Cowboys! If you missed it last spring, do try and see it now; you won't be sorry. Giddy bursts of musical comedy euphoria are rare, and should be savored when they come along.

Box Score:

Writing: Book: 2 Music: 2 Lyrics 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita