DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – Turning back the clock 58 years… the time in Broadway Theatre is that of harmonic guy groups who sing of love.
A specific quartet is entertaining – having returned from some kind of holding pattern in the cosmos.
The Plaids sing songs from the 1950s and early ’60s, the stuff of sh-boom and sha la la.
The harmonic guys have come back to Earth to sing a lounge gig. The four didn’t make it to the Fusel-Lounge because of an unharmonic convergence with a school bus. They were killed in a T-bone collision.
Don’t ask for logic or plot with “Forever Plaid.” The idea is to bring back pop hits, do them up with grandiose choreographed moves of the period and be entertained by a cute and clever aura.
The show on the surface is a tease because the guys – to use slang from the time – are square.
At the same time, the production takes a lot of discipline. That is delivered on the move and acting side by director/choreographer Alicia Birder, the music side by Brandon Rockstroh and the deliverees – Lucas Jordan, Tim Marsh, Michael Thomas O’Malley and Zeb Metzler, along with pianist Amy Bucheger.
Tight harmonies by this group are a case of the sum being greater than the parts – the sound of the group being keener than individuals.
The singing comes with layers of schtick – moves, gestures, sight gags, pauses, double-entendre meanings in phraseology and situational comedy.
Francis (Michael Thomas O’Malley) is given to philosophizing. He has a bit near the end that describes harmonic singing as akin to creating a lemon meringue pie – everything oh so slick and topped with just-right gossamer sweetness.
Jinx (Zeb Metzler) is given to nose bleeds out of nervousness. His buddies nudge him to confidence, showing that the guys like each other.
Sparky (Tim Marsh) is given to dropping lines that are innocent on the face but less so under the covers. He also can pour on the schmaltz.
Smudge (Lucas Jordan) is one visual bit after another, being that he can’t get right from left right … er, correct. “Scotland the Brave” is a full song of Smudge trying to place his misplaced tartan on the right (left) shoulder… slowly, ever so slowly.
All along, Amy Bucheger keeps the pacing keen because this comedy is all about timing – in sound, movement and sight.
The show references the era. The girls on the schoolbus were on their way to see the Beatles’ make their first appearance on CBS-TV’s extremely popular “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964. The guys speed through – in “three minutes and 11 seconds” – the popular, often-goofus acts that appeared on the show. Perry Como gets a nod, and so do a bunch of smooth-minded acts of the time.
One kind-of running joke is the guys sing while holding hand-held microphones of the time, even though the singers wear wireless headsets of today.
Another joke is one guy remarks the group “never sounded this good in life.” Sparky adds, “Funny thing, death.”
Thursday’s opening-night performance easily earned a standing ovation.
Ah, the good old days, delivered with a light touch and discipline, discipline, discipline.
Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. June 3-4; 2 p.m. June 5; 7:30 p.m. June 7-10; and 2 p.m. June 11
Creative: Original writer, director and choreographer – Stuart Ross; producer, director, choreographer – Alicia Birder; director – Brandon Rockstroh; performance/rehearsal accompanist – Amy Bucheger; stage manager – Frank Tower; assistant stage manager – Jensen Mackenzie; lighting design – Halley Lau; sound design – Samuel Sedenquist; set design – Warren Elliott; scenic artist – Susan Elliott; make-up/hair design – Lois Gegare; costume design – Kathy Jagemann; prop design – Alicia Birder, Jensen Mackenzie, marketing director – Ana Lissa Bakken
Francis – Michael Thomas O’Malley
Sparky – Tim Marsh
Jinx – Zeb Metzler
Smudge – Lucas Jordan
The Girl – Emily Ness
“On February Ninth”
“Chant: Deus ex Plaid”
“Three Coins in the Fountain”
“Gotta Be This or That”
“Moments to Remember”
“Crazy ’Bout Ya Baby”
“No, Not Much”
“Sixteen Tons”/“Chain Gang”
“Private Functions: The Bride Cuts the Cake / Italian Wedding / Anniversary Waltz / Itty Bitty Town of Bethlehem / Hava Nagila / Rock-a My Soul / She Loves You”
“The Golden Cardigan”
“Catch a Falling Star”
“Caribbean Plaid: Day-O / Kingston Market / Jamaica Farewell / Matilda Matilda”
“Heart and Soul”
“Lady of Spain”
“Scotland the Brave”
“Shangri-La”/“Rags to Riches”
“Love is a Many Splendored Thing”
NEXT: “Shrek The Musical,” July 14-24.
THE VENUE: Broadway Theatre is located at 123 St. Broadway on the east side of the Fox River in De Pere. Essentially a 3,000-square-foot “black box” theater, the rectangular performance space is adjusted to the needs of a specific production. For “Forever Plaid,” seating is divided into three sections on risers – one large and facing the long leg of performance space head on, and two of 12 seats each on the wings. The space includes a high, arcing ceiling consisting primarily of its original patterned tin, painted white, and a laminate dark brown floor in the audience area. Performances spill along the various levels onto the main level of the seating area. Action often is up close and personal. The theater is the home for performances and rehearsals of the youth Birder Studio of Performing Arts and adult Birder Players, and it is another option for other endeavors of entertainment.