note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone
The opening show at Theatre by the Sea's 79th season is "Forever Plaid". Once upon a time, there were four guys, Sparky, Smudge Jinx and Frankie who love to sing. They all met in high school, when they joined the audiovisual club in 1956. Discovering they shared an affection for music and entertaining, they got together and dreamed of becoming like their idols, The Four Aces, The Four Lads, The Four Freshmen, The Hi-Los and The Crew Cuts. They rehearsed in the basement of Smudge's family's plumbing supply company. It was here they became Forever Plaid, a name that connects the continuation of traditional values of family, home and harmony. Through the powers of harmony and the Expanding Holes in the Ozone Layer, in conjunction with the positions of the planers and all that astro-technical stuff, they are allowed to come back and perform the show they never got to do in life. They were killed on their way to pick up their Plaid Tuxedos. They supported their dreams with day jobs during the week, Frankie in dental supplies, Jinx in auto parts, Smudge in bathroom fixtures and Sparky in better dresses. The boys and their parents watch Ed Sullivan and Perry Como on TV and their songs reflect these values. Director Scott Guthrie picks four talented actors who sing 4 part harmony perfectly while music director John Brown accompanies them on the piano, does some shtick as well as taught them the intricate and complex harmonic sound of the 1950's and 1960's in this tongue in cheek comic look at the past. It is a splendid production with the youth of today, singing the glorious songs of yesteryear.
Ocean State Theatre Company, the not-for-profit producing entity at the historic Theatre by the Sea welcomes Scott back to the theatre.Scott who played Jerry in "The Full Monty" in 2010, directs the show with a keen eye and brings all the comic and dramatic moments together splendidly. He will be in "9 to 5" later this season. Scott is aided by John who taught all the intricate harmonies of the lovely 1950's music. The show opens and closes with two Oscar winning songs, "Three Coins in a Fountain" and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" and includes other popular up beat numbers and ballads of that era. Other group numbers include "Scotland, the Brave" when they get their plaid jackets and "Shangri La". Michael Backes plays Frankie, the spokesman for the group. He has many comic lines and an excellent tenor voice which he shows off in the opening group number, "Crazy About Ya Baby" where the group uses tall plungers as microphones, "Chain Gang", "Matilda" an audience participation number and one of the funniest bits occurs when a woman, Veronica in the audience is asked to play the piano for "Heart and Soul". I last reviewed Michael back in 2000 when he played the lead in "Pippin" at URI. The high tenor in the show is Jeffrey Scott Evans who plays Jinx who constantly gets nose bleeds. He gets to show off his powerful pipes in "Moments to Remember", "No Not Much", "Kingston Market" and "Cry" which stops the show with his powerful rendition. Jeffery also gets to display his comic side playing "Lady of Spain" on an accordion while the others do many acts from the Ed Sullivan show. He holds the last note of the song for a long time till the others finish all their tricks.
Adolpho Blaire is a hoot as Sparky. He has many hilarious one liners in the show. Adolpho displays his topnotch voice in "Gotta Be This or That", "Undecided", "Perfida" and his best number, "Catch a Falling Star", a tribute to Perry Como. The group sings "Sing to Me Mr. C" during this segment. Max Pallman is the powerful bass singer who plays Smudge. He wears horn rimmed glasses and is hilarious in this role. The audience hears his powerhouse voice in "Sixteen Tons'', "Jamaica Farewell" and his best number is "Rags to Riches" which he belts out to the women in the audience. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the 1950's to hear the glorious music, be sure to catch "Forever Plaid" at Theatre by the Sea. Tell them Tony sent you.