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'Plaid' a doo-wop blast from the past

'Plaid' a doo-wop blast from the past

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Before the British Invasion changed the sound of music in America, teenagers swayed to the smooth sounds, precision choreography and dinner jackets of the Ames Brothers, the Four Freshmen, Pat Boone, Perry Como … and the Plaids.

Well, they would have swayed to the Plaids, if a busload of Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles' debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" hadn't killed the Plaids before they got their big break.

But some miracle — perhaps the expanding hole in the ozone layer — has materialized the Plaids back on stage, ready to croon.

As Frankie (Jesse Merz) says: "Nothing on this or any other planet compares to being inside a good, tight chord."

That's the premise of "Forever Plaid," a delightful doo-wop concert with occasional dialogue and a lot of humorous by-play, directed and choreographed by Roger Welch. The show opened Friday at the Pepper Studio Theater.

Jesse Merz (Frankie), Brad Thomas (Sparky), Jody Chastain (Jinx) and Rick Little (Smudge) should form a men's chorus for real. They handle the tricky harmonies with skill and obvious pleasure, and some of their dance work — such as in their second number, "Gotta Be This or That/Undecided" — is downright exciting.

"We never sounded this good in life," Jinx tells his bandmates after that number.

This show introduces local audiences to Thomas, an animated, bright-eyed man with a wide smile. It's also a farewell to Merz, who throws himself into the role with his usual boundless energy.

The opening-night audience appeared to enjoy all the songs, but a particular favorite was "Sixteen Tons," which showcased Little's deep voice. Another highlight was Chastain's featured number, the passionate "Cry."

I had to look up the song titles on the Internet. They should be listed in the program.

By the way, if you've ever wondered what "She Loves You" or "Scotland the Brave" would sound like in doo-wop style, go see the show.

The best part of the evening is the group's re-creation of "The Ed Sullivan Show" — which, judging from the opening night's audience reaction to each bit, was obviously regular viewing for most of them back in the day.

The ensemble work is great, including the contributions by pianist Dorothy McMillan and bassist Dennis Yalch.

The show moves quickly, running 90 minutes without intermission.

If you go

What: Longview Stageworks production of "Forever Plaid," a musical with '50s and early '60s pop tunes.

When: 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. today and Sunday, then at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays through May 18.

Where: Pepper Studio Theater.

Tickets: $16 adults, $13.50 children and seniors for evening shows, $10 all ages for matinees. Available at CTPA box office, 575-8499.

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