Musical numbers: “Whoop-Dee-Doo,””Stuck on You,””Teach It How to Dance, “”Elizabeth,””Nancy: The Unauthorized Musical,””Tough to Be a Fairy,””Blue Flame ,””A Soldier’s Musical,””It’s a Perfect Day,””Last One Picked,””As Plain as the Nose on My Face,””I Was Born This Way,””You Are My Idol,””The Magic of Me,””My Turn to Shine,””Less Is More.”
Howard Crabtree’s “Whoop-Dee-Doo!” is a “Broadway extravaganza” that is neither Broadway nor extravagant, but no matter. Produced on a budget that wouldn’t cover Chita Rivera’s rouge, this all-male, all-gay musical comedy revue has higher spirits and more fun per stage square-inch than any five of its uptown counterparts.
The setup here is a Ziegfeld-like follies as re-imagined by a group of men whom creator and costumer Crabtree says were kept out of the military because of their “4-F” status, and he doesn’t need to explain what the F stands for. Not all of the 16 musical sketches are gay-themed, but each is fueled with the outrageous camp fervor that turned “Pageant” into an Off Broadway hit a few seasons back. With periodic updates, a la “Forbidden Broadway,””Whoop-Dee-Doo!” could join the elite roster of downtown perennials. Crabtree and Co. (five others are credited with the show’s creation and development, with additional material by five more) have fashioned — and fashion is the proper word — musical comedy numbers on topics ranging from no-pest strips to a pas de deux for Kleenex tissue. Driving all of the silliness is Crabtree’s visual sense: This is a show stitched together for the sake of its costumes, and not vice versa.
But what costumes. Both Charles Busch and Everett Quinton might squint from the glare. Crabtree dresses himself and his cast as insects, fairies, food, Nancy Reagan, and, in the show’s capper, a summer picnic, and there’s not a dud in the bunch.
The sketches themselves aren’t quite so steady, with a few attempts at topicality coming up a bit short. “It’s a Perfect Day,” for example, combines, to little effect, a Gay ’90s setting (the old fashioned kind) with the gay ’90s practice of outing. Still, there are considerably more hits than misses in “Whoop-Dee-Doo!,” a far better ratio than can be claimed by most collections of the type.
Best of the lot include a backer’s audition for a musical based on the life of Nancy Reagan (one almost hopes Waldrop and Gallagher, the writers, find an angel) and some inspired lunacy about a tropical island tribe transformed into diva devotees by a misplaced trunk of Hollywood memorabilia.
Between some skits, Crabtree and cast member Jay Rogers display terrific comic partnership, with Rogers kvetching about the production’s low standards, Equity violations and Crabtree’s campy extravagance. Rest of the cast is nearly as good, with Tommy Femia taking the spotlight once to re-create his New York cabaret staple — de rigeur, and perfectly neurotic, impersonation of Judy Garland.
Production credits are, of course, minimal, except for the brilliant costumes. The music and singing are serviceable, but the focus is squarely and smartly on comedy. “Whoop-Dee-Doo!” proves vaudeville ain’t dead, it’s just been to the powder room. –Greg Evans