By Daniel Skora
The Plaids are back at the Dio – refreshed, rejuvenated, and reinvented. It’s a good chance that you’ve crossed paths with them before. “Forever Plaid” is one of the best of the “nostalgic” musicals, filled with great songs from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s and spiced up with lots of comedy.
If you were expecting “Tuck Everlasting” to be the Dio’s current presentation as announced last year in the theatre’s brochure, it isn’t. Finalizing permission from those who control the rights was unable to be completed as the show drew near so the Dio has brought back a show that has always been a crowd pleaser. But not to worry. This “Plaid” stands with the best of them. It features a brand new cast with fantastic vocal harmonies and comedic skills to match.
The Plaids, of course, are a male vocal group in the style of The Four Freshman or The Four Lads. The story goes that they were bound for New York and the Ed Sullivan Show to see a new band that was appearing called The Beatles. Unfortunately the vehicle they were riding in was rammed by a school bus filled with Catholic school girls and all four members perished.
Perhaps there’s some heavenly remorse attached to the fact that the fates have given them one last opportunity to give the concert they never were able to give. Caught between reality and the afterlife, they’re self conscious and not quite sure what’s expected of them. But the Plaids, in the form of the talented cast that director Steve DeBruyne has assembled.
It’s a varied repertoire the Plaids perform. The Four Aces’ “Three Coins in the Fountain” shares spotlight with Tennesse Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” and Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star”. In a show where every nearly every song is comedy infused, the best are the Caribbean Plaid medley, where the boys turn Harry Bellefonte’s “Matilda” into a truly remarkable visual feast, and the three minute eleven second abridgment of an entire season of the Ed Sullivan Show, and that includes jugglers, plate spinners, Topo Gigio, Senor Wences, dogs jumping through hoops, Russian dancers, and even the fat lady from the opera, all played to the accompaniment of “Lady of Spain”.
Though the vocals of the Plaids blend extremely well when it comes time to do a song, their personalities are quite different. Franky, played by Steve DeBruyne, is the leader of the group. Jinx (Angel Velasco) is the introvert given to shyness and nosebleeds. Sparky (James Fischer) is the group’s showboat, and you get the sense that he wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed if the stage belonged only to him. Smudge (Matthew Wallace) is the most serious member of the group but also the most awkward.
“Forever Plaid” is great fun – breezy and lighthearted, featuring guys with fabulous pipes and an instinctive skill for comedy. It’s a wonderful summer treat!
Music direction is by Brian Rose, who this time gets to play keyboards onstage and in full view of the audience rather than high up in the Dio’s rafters. Set, lighting, and sound design are by Matt Tomich. Costume design is by Norma Polk, choreography by Bryanna Hall. Dan Morrison serves as Assistant Director and props are by Eileen Obradovich. The buffet, served before the show starts, is, as always, a culinary feast to be enjoyed and savored.
“Forever Plaid” runs through July 23rd. For tickets and information call the Dio at 1.517.672.6009 or go online at www.diotheatre.com. The Dio – Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.