Looking Good in 'Plaid'
|Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor|
Aug. 21, 2004 -- The Community Players Inc. presentation of "Forever Plaid" will long be remembered for two things: an outstanding performance by its players, and one of the most succesful shows in the venue's history.
After only two performances, the musical revue about four harmonizing vocalists who come down from heaven for one last shot at the big time is already sold out for its entire run.
It's been so successful that the theatre has added a matinee showing for Sunday, Aug. 29. (Reservations for the matinee can be made by calling Main Street Theatre at 903-885-0107.)
"When they found out we were sold out, they agreed to extend the run for a 'resurrection' encore performance," said Michael Dodd, who both directs and stars as one of the four singers. "We're bringing them back from the heavens one more time."
It's only the third time in about the past 20 years a play at the theatre has sold out completely, the previous times being "Nunsense" in the 1980s, before the theater was remodeled to accommodate larger audiences, and again a few years ago when "The Miracle Worker" was staged.
The story is simple: The Plaids, a four-guy doo-wop group from 1964, are on their way to their first big gig when their 1954 Mercury convertible gets run over by a busload of Catholic school girls on their way to see The Beatles perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
The story, peppered with cultural references that overcome generation gaps and comedy - and the show IS funny - is really a plot device that drives a slate of 30 songs, ranging from standards to calypso and old pop tunes.
And the cast - led by Dodd, Dr. Chuck Jones, Kevin Woolley, and Greenville police officer John White in the leading roles - has proven up to the task of bringing that immense catalog of music to life. And it's also one explanation for the popularity of the show.
"The cast is the biggest plus," Dodd said of the players, who also sing together as part of the Northeast Texas Choral Society. "You get to see two conservative people on stage that doing things you never would have dreamed up."
Wooley, who is also the Sulphur Springs Middle School principal, transcends any image of a staid, humorless education administrator in his role as Frankie, including donning kitchen strainers and other utensils to portray "The Fat Lady Sings" in one of the funniest bits, "The Ed Sullivan Show in 3 Minutes and 11 seconds."
And, notes Dodd, "Most people don't realize Chuck Jones is a cut-up. This allows him to step out from behind his doctor's cloak and be himself."
As for John White, already familiar to many as a player and director of Northeast Texas Choral Society's Cabaret, Dodd said he emerges as a crowd-pleasing favorite with his talented voice - and comic timing.
"To watch a cop eat fire is unbelievable," Dodd said. "If they haven't heard about it by now, they will."
Loren Seely on stand-up bass and Ken Hushek on piano round out the cast, providing solid backing and getting in on the act at times themselves.
Those who have seen the show would be surprised the crisp, spot-on harmonies came together in less than a month of rehearsal time together.
"We didn't start rehearsing all together until about July 20, and due to conflicts, we have probaby spent 14 or 15 days where we've all rehearsed together," Dodd said. "But all the guys are accomplished singers and musicians, and they worked on it on their own, and we all brought it together."
Dodd said he's wanted to do the show since seeing it in Fort Worth during its unheard of three-year run there in the mid 1990s. The show is perfect for small theater because of the need for intimacy with audience, and the music strikes its own chord with theater-goers.
"People are coming away from the show with different memories," Dodd said. "The ones who grew up with this music are reflecting on where they were when they first heard it. They reflect on times when you could watch Perry Como and Ed Sullivan, when you coud watch enteratinment on TV and not be afraid for your children. Younger people are saying "Wow, I thought rock and roll was all they had in the 60s, where can we hear more of this?"