When Pigs Fly: An Interview with Jay Rogers

Photo by James Estrin/NY Times

Editor’s Note: Jay Rogers, one of the stars of the original production of Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly, was interviewed before the October 2 announcement cancelling the revival. Here are his remembrances of the 1996 show, in his own words.

When Pigs Fly plays an enormous part in my life. I so loved working on Pigs!

For years I worked at the famous downtown club, Eighty Eights. I was waitering a show in the cabaret room when I innocently overheard a conversation between Mark Waldrop and Dick Gallagher (the show’s composer and my friend). I heard something like: “…and then the big closing number will be a tribute to Richard Rodgers called ‘You Don’t Know Dick!'” I said, “I don’t know what you boys are working on but I want in on it!”

I loved that the show was written around the very clever costumes Howard Crabtree designed. I met Howard on the first day of rehearsals for Howard Crabtree’s Whoop-Dee-Do! (sort of a precursor to When Pigs Fly). I was brought in to Whoop-Dee-Do! by the wonderful director, Phil George, who was the assistant director to Mark Waldrop, who co-wrote and directed When Pigs Fly! Phil cast me in the “spoiler role” that was meant for Stanley Bojarski who was on tour
. Howard was fun and funny and a mad genius. He came across as the small-town Missouri boy he was. When the cast first assembled we noticed what a diverse group we were. The show was geared toward our unique talents and strengths. Basically we were playing a hyped-up version of ourselves.

The show created a stir from the beginning. The rehearsals were fast and funny and exhilarating. I think we all new it was something special. This was 1996, so folks were still grappling with coming out. The cast was fine with the very gay material. I think we knew it would put the anxiety of  “out” theatre in the proper perspective. We had the pleasure showing the world the best of ourselves and our gayness with this outrageous yet inclusive little musicale revue. That little cast had big pumps to fill! Terrific creatives and cast and crew. We were small but mighty and very proud.

The straight folks seemed to like it as much as our gay audience and that was the objective. Everybody came and lots of celebs visited with us afterward: Liza, Joan Rivers, RuPaul, Whoopi – and so many other wonderful, show folk. The whole undertaking was so joyous and full. I will  never forget the joy and laughter we had and the fun we had sharing our “little program.” The initial response was so thrilling! I was so glad that, in our own spectacular way, we made a small difference in the way people reacted to our very gayness. The laughter and applause could not be equaled. Like the finale says it was “Over The  Top!”

I am thrilled for the revival. I can’t wait to see what the new show will reveal about the way things were then and how attitudes have changed in the last twenty years. It’ll be an eye-opener for sure. It’s a joyous and witty, topical revue. It was a swell time for us then and  I know it will be “terrifical” for the new cast too!

Jay Rogers has received multiple awards for his one man outings: Yes, This Is My Real Voice! (Bistro), Sucker (MAC), Eat, Drink and Be Mary (MAC and Bistro), as well the revues; Monday In The Park With George (MAC and Bistro), Here’s To Our Friends (MAC and Bistro), Keith Thompson’s Kooky Tunes, and The Music of Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE! (MAC, Bistro and Nightlife). He also has a wealth of theater credits to his name in a celebrated career.