TR Robertson — The Welk Theatre has completed their renovations to their iconic lobby and is now back and open for musical performances with a variety of productions. The lobby has been completely remodeled with new carpeting, a larger bar area, new seating and the Lawrence Welk memorabilia has been moved into new display cases. The resort opened their musical theatre with the popular, “Forever Plaid”, the Off-Broadway Musical Review on the weekends, written and choreographed by Stuart Ross, and with a “Hard Days’ Night” Beatles Tribute in the middle of the week.
“Forever Plaid” was first performed in 1987 at the West Bank Café. It would go through some revisions, most notably adding the death of the singing group to the beginning of the musical. By the time of the New York City premiere at Steve McGraws, “Forever Plaid” would be in the style we still hear today.
The story begins with the narration and cartoon-like pictures of the “guy group”, Forever Plaid, traveling to pick-up their plaid tuxes, in their cherry red Mercury convertible, on Feb. 9, 1964. Suddenly, they are involved in a traffic accident, with a bus carrying Catholic school girls on their way to see The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan TV Show. The girls all survive, the Plaids do not. When we meet the Plaids on stage, they are in their suits, 54 years later, caught in a time warp between worlds, having not completed their final performance.
Over the next 1 ½ hours, the Plaids will take the audience through a nostalgic trip of the music of the “guy groups” of the 1950’s, which preceded the rise of The Beatles and the British invasion. The “guy groups” included groups such as The Four Aces, The Four Freshman, and The Four Lads. Along the way they would include music from Harry Belafonte, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sam Cooke, and Perry Como, to name a few.
The Welk presentation of “Forever Plaid” brings to the stage four incredible performers with amazing voices and ability to handle the intricate creative and funny choreography associated with the varied songs in the show. Their over-accentuated hand and arm movements and their “mike stand choreography” is amazing. Each of the performers has a number of solo performances from the different songs, as well as wonderful voices that are in perfect harmony with one another.
Playing Jinx is Nick Tubbs who has played Jinx in previous productions. He is a standout on “Cry”. Playing Smudge is Robert Petrarca, also reprising the role of Smudge. As Smudge, he takes the audience back in time when he opens his suitcase and breaks out his collection of 45 rpm’s and his LP’s and talks about simpler time when songs were about dating and falling in & out of love. Playing Frankie is Travis Leland, also a Plaid veteran. The final Plaid is Jackson Hinden as Sparky. Hinden has to be the most physically exhausted of the Plaids as he is constantly “flying” about the stage, an aggressive Plaid performer and the biggest “cut-up” of the group. He tones it down a bit when he goes through the memory of his encounter with Perry Como and a gift of a golden cardigan sweater. All of the performers also have extensive theatre credits to their resumes.
“Forever Plaid”, as a musical comedy, has a number of quick one-liners and funny routines and skits. At one moment the Plaids are using large over-sized plumbers plungers as microphones, another time acting out all of the options the Plaids offer as their musical services (weddings, bar mitzaphas, Southern Baptist revivals, etc.), a Plaids Go Calypso routine to “Day O” and “Matilda” and a hilarious 2 ½ minute “Lady of Spain” routine from the Ed Sullivan Show featuring many of the iconic performers from the show. At one point in the show, an audience member is brought up on stage to help play “Heart and Soul” on the piano, when the piano player, Justin, takes his required union break.
“Forever Plaid” is directed by David S. Humphrey. Justin Gray is the musical director and piano player and Martin Martinera plays bass. Stage Manager and lighting by Jennifer Edwards-Northover and Sound by Jordan Gray.
The musical begins with “Three Coins in the Fountain”, by the Four Aces, and ends with “Love is A Many Splendored Thing”, by the Four Aces, as they perform in resplendent plaid tuxes. In between, the audience will hear over 25 classic songs. Even if you are too young to remember or even have heard any of these songs, you will love the harmony, the presentation, the antics and the atmosphere and feeling this musical will leave you with and the Welk Resort is a relaxing, easy drive to reach. Also available for lunch of dinner is the Canyon Grille.
“Forever Plaid” will be at the Welk Resort Theatre until August 26th, playing every Saturday at 1 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 pm. The Welk Resort Theatre is located at 8845 Lawrence Welk Dr. in northern Escondido. Tickets are available in www.welkresorts.com or www.sandiegotickets.welkresrots.com.
Also playing at the Welk is “Hard Days’ Night” on Wednesdays at 7 pm. This is a performance of a Beatles tribute band which will remain until August 29th. On Saturday, June 23rd, the rock group Venice will play for a one evening performance. Coming to Welk in September will be the musical “Mamma Mia!” and the performing group The Alley Cats.