‘Forever Plaid’ comes to NCC stage
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media May 19, 2011 9:14AM
♦Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St., Naperville
Updated: August 25, 2011 12:33AM
Garrett Lutz of Aurora was 10 when he saw his first play, the musical “Forever Plaid.”
He immediately loved it – the music, the story – all of it. It was that performance that inspired him to pursue acting.
Lutz, a junior at North Central College, stars as Sparky in the student production of “Forever Plaid,” a musical that closes out the College’s Fine and Performing Arts season.
The musical comedy by Stuart Ross is an homage to the harmonic guy-groups of the 1950s, and is directed by senior theater major Angie Snodgrass of Naperville. It is the story of four high-school buddies — Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Francis — who form a band called The Plaids, in tradition of their idols, the Four Aces, Four Freshmen and the Crew Cuts.
Sadly, right after landing their first big gig, the Mercury convertible they’re in is broadsided by a school bus filled with Catholic teens on their way to see the Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
The teens lived, but the members of The Plaid were killed instantly. This is where the story begins: right after the death of the main characters. The quartet is allowed to return from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory.
The play stars Tanner Smale of Elkhart, Ind., as Francis; Lutz as Sparky; Bryan Renaud of Sugar Grove as Smudge; and Max DeTogne of Arlington Heights as Jinx.
“I didn’t know if it was supposed to be funny or morbid, because the Plaids were killed instantly,” Lutz said.
Despite death’s appearance in the beginning of the play, the overall tone is sweet and charming, Snodgrass said.
“I think people are going to love it,” she said. “The boys sound fantastic. They are hilarious, fun and their characters are enjoyable. There are some really sentimental things and you can tell the boys really care about each other, and they are so excited about performing. I know ‘Forever Plaid’ has a big following and so I’m a little nervous, but I think that people are going to be incredibly impressed. I think I was lucky enough to cast four of the most talented guys. People are definitely in for a treat.”
Each character has quirks and hang-ups he has to work through to get to the point of being able to move forward.
There are about 25 to 30 songs, he said, most of which are medleys. Audiences will have fun recognizing lyrics to various oldies tunes.
“These guys needed to die so they could become this fantastic group that ended up being so successful,” Lutz said. “This style of music was starting to come to an end because The Beatles were starting to come into the music world. The Plaids were going to die out anyway. It was fate for them to go, because they could come back later when this style would be appreciated and they could get credit they deserve.”
Lutz gets to play piano for a song, something he isn’t the most comfortable doing. Speaking of challenges, Snodgrass is not only directing her first show, she is also choreographing it. She did her homework, researching how the Four Aces and Four Seasons danced back in the day.
“I wanted to tackle it myself, it’s an educational experience, and I’m glad I did because so much of their relationships are shown through choreography, and I wanted to have my hands in that,” she said. “It was a challenge, but I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”
“Audiences can expect to have a really great time, and if they are enjoying it half as much as we are onstage, they will absolutely love it,” Renaud said. “The music is so much fun and skits are so much fun and I don’t think anyone will be able to walk away from the show without a smile on their face.”