Reviewed by Karl Levett
Presented by the Wings Theatre Company at the Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher St., NYC, Sept. 21-Oct. 21.
The Wings Theatre Gay Plays Series and New Musicals Series combine in "Cowboys!," a new musical that the press release wittily announces is about "young, fashion-conscious cowboys who have found happiness at the Straight Arrow ranch—where the men are men and the women . . . are nowhere to be seen."
Such wit never quite makes it into the show itself, a spoof of cowboy epics and 1940s Technicolor musicals, with book and lyrics by Clint Jefferies and music by Paul L. Johnson. This is sagebrush painted with a very broad stage brush—in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge style that also encompasses every gay stereotype known to man. It's the kind of good-hearted, galumphing show you'd like to like, but, before it is almost rescued by a wonderfully silly finale, we have to endure several tedious turns of Jefferies' lumbering book.
When Straight Arrow proprietor Aunt Rosie (Judy Kranz) falls behind on her taxes, the boys, led by Ranger Rick Rowdy (John Lavin), plan to put on a show to save the ranch. Enter villain Boston Bart Black (Daniel Carlton) with sidekick Lovely Lilly Luscious (Laura Sechelski), who know that there is oil on the property. Plot and sexual orientation complications ensue.
The songs are enthusiastic rather than original, with the parodies coming off best, especially the Patsy Cline salute "I Fall To Faded Pieces After Midnight When Your Sweet Dreams Drive Me Crazy." There's nary a trained voice (except for the spirited and stylish Sechelski and Jim Gaddis' Injun Bob) on these Texas plains, where the best of good singing intentions roam.
Director Jeffery Corrick has allowed his players full rein, with the result that several of the performers should do time in the county jail for consistent mugging. Only Lavin, as Ranger Rick, is clever enough to find the piece's requisite style, a convincing wide-eyed innocence amid camp chaos.