Remembering Pushing Daisies

A moment of silence, please, for the late and lamented television series Pushing Daisies.  The second and final season of the ABC forensic fairy tale was released to DVD last month, and I for one am already missing it.  While not a musical in the strictest sense (or even any other sense), it did borrow some of its conventions from the musical genre.

pushing daisies

In the most obvious sense, Pushing Daisies did so by casting a veritable parade of Broadway stars as both series regulars and as one-off guest stars.

Tony-winner Jim Dale (Barnum, Candide), was the voice of the always-heard but never-seen narrator.  Stage veterans Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors) played sisters Lily and Vivian Charles.  Raúl Esparza (Company, Taboo), Christopher Sieber (Spamalot, Shrek), and Wilson Cruz (Rent) also made appearances, among others.

Aside from the veritable parade of Broadway veterans, the polychromatic sets were fantastical and always imaginative.  Any one of the storybook sets could have been taken straight from the sketch pad of the theatre world’s top production designers.

In the vein of the modern musical, Pushing Daisies occasionally used songs to develop characters.  Waitress Olive Snook, as played by the incomparable Tony-winning Kristin Chenoweth, (You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Wicked) did so the most frequently.  While pining over her unrequited love Ned, Olive crooned “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (Grease) after- hours in a pie shop.  The night cleaner, Manuel, danced back-to-back with her as he polished the floor, completely unaware of his role in the melodramatic musical number.

But one of the best moments took place during a road trip, when Chenoweth and Ellen Greene sang a beautiful cover of “Birdhouse in Your Soul.”  The Daisies’ version is virtually unrecognisable from the original by alternative rock group They Might Be Giants.  The musical interlude only lasts about 30 seconds before being cut off by an ornery and bedazzled-eye-patch-wearing Swoosie Kurtz.  The full version of the song can be found, however, on iTunes.

To see the whole collection of Chenoweth’s musical-moments on Pushing Daisies, click here for the full YouTube medley.  Better yet, pick up the DVD set and watch the entire series to your heart’s content.  As the new season of television debuts to great fanfare this month, I’ll be wiping away a not-so-silent tear in memory of the often-heartbreaking and always-beautiful Pushing Daisies.

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