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Jan. 27, 2005
Forever Plaid at the Ferndale
by ELLIN BELTZ
TRYING TO REVIEW MOST MUSICALS
IS LIKE TRYING TO herd cats into a carrier one-handed. I only
have 700 words, and with the huge casts and crews there are few
words left to spare. Fortunately, Forever Plaid is not
only easy to explain, it's easy to enjoy, and almost everyone
will recognize some or all of the classic songs. The packed opening
night audience applauded the tight harmony and laughed at the
innocent antics of the Plaid boys.
In and around their songs, we
learn the whole story. The Plaids were friends in high school
who started performing together at family functions and small
events. On their way to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxedos
they were all instantly killed in a car accident and -- after
a span of 40 years in the mystic void -- they return to a theater
with a live audience to give the show they never could.
From their candle-lit entrance
to the grand finale song, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing,"
the Plaids entertain with a string of nearly three dozen songs,
audience interaction and comedy. Outstanding highlights include
a hysterically funny 3-minute-and-41-second take on the long-running
television hit variety program, The Ed Sullivan Show,
"Heart and Soul," a percussive "Chain Gang"
and a spirited Caribbean medley that ends the first act.
[From left: Leo
Roehrich (Frankie), Gavin Donnellan (Smudge),
David West (Sparky), Branden Williams (Jinx).
Photo courtesy of Dan Tubbs.]
Director Clair Yarrington commuted
from California Theatre Arts in Walnut Creek to the Rep, and
the cast of four learned much of the music from CDs of the original
performances, shortening rehearsal time to a schedule more familiar
to professional houses than the Rep.
After opening night, the actors
noted that because Yarrington isn't a Humboldt County regular,
they were judged on audition, not stereotyped into roles they've
played before. This let them stretch and grow in unanticipated
ways, as did the opportunity to carpool to and from rehearsals,
singing in harmony like the original Plaids.
While one of the best things
about Humboldt theater is its insistence on age appropriate casting,
here it becomes poignant. The actors were born a generation after
boy-group harmonizing died in the face of the rock-and-roll British
Invasion of the early 1960s.
The youth and innocence of Branden
Williams (Jinx, first tenor), Leo Roehrich (Frankie, second tenor),
David West (Sparky, baritone) and Gavin Donnellan (Smudge, bass)
plays into the material in a way that the older, original cast
can never match. This was particularly evident during the sidesplitting
Sullivan show spoof where their good-natured inner selves pop
right into character and take on the most challenging material
in this musical with grace and style. Try to make a mental prop
list as the Plaids, cavort, hop, juggle, conjure and skewer just
about every weird act old Ed ever aired -- all in less than four
Even a show produced out of
the mystical void cannot go on in a vacuum. The design team includes
Daniel L. Lawrence (set), Jesse Talbert (lights), Beth Lanzi
(costumes), and Gabriel Groom (sound) and live piano accompaniment
by local jazz legend John Raczka.
If you like voting with your
pocketbook, there are two upcoming benefits: a Sunday, Jan. 30,
matinee for the College of the Redwoods Foundation League's annual
scholarship fund-raising drive and Thursday, Feb. 10, for the
well-deserving cast and crew.
On Saturday, Jan. 29, "Think
Pink" and come down to Ferndale for the annual flamingo
parade sponsored by the Ferndale Rep. To participate in the parade,
or for more information or Forever Plaid tickets, visit
www.ferndale-rep.org or call the box office at 786-5483. The
Ferndale Repertory Theatre is on Main Street in the Victorian
Village of Ferndale, just 19 minutes south of the last stoplight
in Eureka on 101.
January 27 to February 19:
Shakespeare's comedy, Two Gentlemen of Verona, at North
Coast Repertory Theatre, 300 Fifth St., Eureka. 442-NCRT.
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