Original Cast Recording
2003: Fynsworth Alley 302 062 192 2
From the mid-1980s to early 1990s, I could have been considered a professional Scott Warrender fan, and if he hadnt shifted to performance venues far beyond the reach of pedestrians (Issaquah?! oh please no!) Id probably still be in that category. His musical-theatre songcrafting and wicked sense of humor are a delight, as is sharing the experience of his shows with good friends. Its always irked and flummoxed me that nobody celebrates this guys oeuvre or even mentions it except fleetingly when he comes out with something new.
I remember seeing Das Barbecü at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1991, when Seattle Opera was doing its big Ring thing and Warrender concocted this goofy mess with Jim Luigs and that entirely-too-handsome Steven Terrell, and I dont recall the actors names in that production offhand but am pretty sure this bunch isnt the entire original cast credited on the CD cover; I may be wrong Carolee Carmellos name stands out as unfamiliar in any case. Its the original off-Broadway cast, anyway.
If you dont already know about the shows premise (a rough retelling of Wagners Götterdammerung [the fourth opera in Der Ring des Nibelungen], but as a Texan comedy of errors performed by only five actors), I wont attempt to outline it here: there are enough websites out there describing it just enough to convey the gist, and my memory of the original production isnt strong enough on the storyline to add anything to it (except to note that the synchronized-swimming aqua-follies of the Rivermaidens was done with fake legs so hilariously that the audience quite dissolved with laughter). Its enough to say that the plot is only marginally clearer than that of its spoofee. As a consequence, the songs are only held together as a set by the pervasive heavy Texas twang used throughout as broad caricature; so this album doesnt come across as a revue (such as Warrenders eternally delightful Texas Chainsaw Manicurist) but cant tell the story through the songs alone without even the too-brief synopsis provided in the CDs booklet, or a personal viewing of the show, this CD would make no sense at all.
Having said all that, this is one hell of a funny musical.
The Texas-style exaggeration of everything comes through in the lyrics, with Warrender and Luigs clustering all kinds of clever wit into every couplet they can construct. One of the joys of a Scott Warrender musical (and what makes attending them such an exhausting experience) is in being assaulted by so much well-aimed humor that comes at you in the form of the lyrics, the costumes, the choreography, the acting, the set (if any), and sometimes even the music itself. You can get a good taste of that experience from these recordings of Hog-Tie Your Man and Makin Guacamole, especially, but also from the opening track (the would-be expository A Ring of Gold in Texas which almost has the opposite effect of its intended clarification of the storyline and includes the impressive and intentionally incorrect line Once more: there was ore galore on the floor of this reservoir).
On the other side of the coin, theres Warrenders gorgeous feel for heart-tugging melodic pieces and slightly oddball or over-the-top harmonies, elements which make listening to this album a joy even without the benefit of the production itself. The harmonies in Hog-Tie Your Man are tight and fun (one of the three girl-group singers is a guy, which makes the arrangement even more intriguing) but probably the best examples here of the kind of stuff Warrender can thrill your spine with in his ensemble writing are on A Ring of Gold in Texas and perhaps at the end of If Not Fer You. But theres not quite anything on the level of, say, his mesmerizing arrangements of, say, The January and Beautiful Evening in The January Book.
And those couplets? Here are my favorites:
Give a (w)hoop and then a holler / droop your loop around his collar / you can bet your bottom dollar he wont stray
Rodeo Romeo / How quickly they forget / Rodeo Romeo / Take a memo, Miss Wynette!
Guaca-guaca-mole-mole / peelin pit and poundin slowly / Make a batch from scratch and youll agree / its a hell of a delicacy!
If not fer We thered be no Me at all!
If someone said instead of sweatin it / You and Id wind up duettin it / Idve said no way! but hey, its true!
So ladies, dont be fools / dont lose the family jewels / cause if yer daddy should disown ya / you could wind up with pneumonia
(Gutrune) When your wedding days a sham
(Brunnhilde) and the bridegrooms on the lam
(G & B together) Yes, Virginia, theres a ham / to help you wallow with every swallow
(G & B together) This little piggy needs a biscuit!!
(B) This little piggy wants some pinto beans!
(G) This little piggy needs some brisket!
(B) Uh-huh this little piggy knows what that piggy means.
(after Getrune and Brunnhilde have pigged out big-time, theyre inert and stuffed)
(B) (weakly) Alka-Seltzer, please.
(G) (with dread) Dont say black-eyed peas.
(B) Wait a minute
(B) Yer dress I think
(G) Dont tell me I can guess
(B) I think its lovely!
(B) Yes! Youre very pretty!
(G) Thanks, I feel shitty!
Comments © 2007 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.