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The Dio’s “Forever Plaid” Serves Up a Tasty Summer Confection (review) June 18, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Guest Review by Wendy Wright

As sweet as an ice cream sundae, with tight harmonies as dense as a pound cake, the wonderful performances in the Dio’s production of FOREVER PLAID serve as the cherry on top. Walking in to the show all I knew was that it was a review of songs from the era before rock and roll. Little did I know there is a hilarious and enjoyable story attached as well. A quartet of male “teen angels” are brought back to earth after having been taken too soon, so that they can fulfill their dream of performing one last show.

One by one, each character reveals himself and is given a moment in the spotlight.  And one by one, I fell in love with every one of them.  James Fischer as Sparky is a master of comic timing, newcomer Angel Velasco’s Jinx is the picture of delightful innocence, Matthew Wallace as Smudge is a loveable goofball, while holding them all together, almost like a big brother, is Steve DeBruyne’s Franky.

DeBruyne’s direction made the evening seamless and I may have noticed some succulent touches that could have only come from the warped imagination of Assistant Director Dan Morrison. The tightly choreographed moves by Bryana Hall look like they are right out of any real-life 60’s boy-group and the actors carry it off very well. Norma Polk’s costume design looks snappy, and Matthew Tomich does super work with the sound, lighting and projections.  Eileen Obradovich’s prop design works particularly well in the Ed Sullivan sequence. Mix in two musicians (Brian Rose on piano who also has done very good work as Musical Director, and  Leer Sobie on bass) and you have a refreshing milkshake blended to perfection.

There is a reason the Dio returns to this show time after time and you would never know that this incarnation was a last-minute replacement for a different show. The food by chef Jarod was wonderful as always (the fried chicken alone is worth the price of admission). All in all, this is the perfect escape from the summer heat.

FOREVER PLAID continues at the Dio, 135 E Main St, Pinckney, MI through July 23rd. Tickets at 517-672-6009 or online at http://www.diotheatre.com

Very Highest Recommendation

It’s baa-aack…Forever Plaid at the Dio (Review 2014)…and its delicious August 1, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Last summer, The Dio made a big opening splash with its production of Forever Plaid…well, its back this summer in a spiffed-up production featuring those lovable dead guys, The Plaids…and its as delicious as ever.

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Returning from last summer are Steve DeBruyne (Frankie a.k.a. Francis) and Thomas Mate (Smudge a.k.a. Smudge). Joining them are Cody Musteffe (Sparky) and Jared Schneider (Jinx). Since most of the production is intact from last summer, you can read that review here:

https://a2view.com/2013/07/13/forever-plaid-gets-dio-theater-off-to-a-terrific-start-in-new-home-

This year’s version features a particularly tight harmony quartet, and their balance is superb. DeBruyne returns to top form, and Mate repeats his pitch-perfect performance from last summer. Musteffe is a strong performer, and Schneider has a nice surprise in store for you a bit down the road in the show.

Costumes are spiced-up since last summer (Norma Polk) and there is some new lighting – including a nice touch at the finale that will leave you smiling (Matthew Tomich). Director Steve Debruyne and Choreographer Cara Manor have added a few additional humorous touches since we last saw these Plaids, and some had me outright howling with laughter.

But rest assured — the oversized toilet plungers are still there, as are Topo Gigio and those straw hats.

Oh, and Chef Jarod’s chicken and Waldorf Salad are to die for — as are his sugar-butter cookies for dessert. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.

FOREVER PLAID continues at the Dio, 135 E Min St, Pinckney, MI through September 7th. Tickets at 517-672-6009 or online at http://www.diotheatre.com

Very Highly Recommended.

Forever Plaid gets Dio Theater off to a terrific start in new home (Review) July 13, 2013

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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What could be better than dinner and a show? And if its a good dinner and a great show, it makes it all the better — and that is what you get from The Dio – Dining and Entertainment this summer with their first production in their new Pinkney-based home, Forever Plaid.

Chef Jarod has prepared a delicious buffet-style dinner which begins serving at 6:30. The Theater itself is in an old opera house, and its beautifully re-designed by owners Steve DeBruyne and Matthew Tomich. As such, it has great acoustics (in fact, they are so good you can’t tell when the actors are using mics and when they are singing live).

This isn’t the first recent local production of Forever Plaid — but it is probably the best. Mostly sung-through (but leaving plenty of time to develop characters for its quartet of male early-1960’s crooners “gone before their time” and returning for one last live show), the intermission-less production zooms by in record time, winding its way through two-dozen tightly harmonized familiar 60’s numbers.

What a cast! Steve DeBruyne, Daniel Clair, Benjamin Dennis, and Thomas Mate create terrific characters on stage, and their vocals are astonishing. Each shows broad range, and director DeBruyne has done marvelous development work for each one — each cast member is different in size, shape, character, facial expressions, and it all combines for a highly entertaining evening. It’ll be hard for you to pick a favorite, as they each have a moment to truly shine.

Cara Manor gives them snappy and tightly choreographed moves that look like they are right out of any real-life 60’s boy-group — don’t underestimate how difficult this material is — and the actors carry it off very well. Shelly Walker’s costume design looks snappy, and Matthew Tomich does super work with the sound and lighting. Eileen Obradovich’s prop design works particularly well in the Ed Sullivan sequence. Mix in two parts musicians (George Cullinan on piano who also has done very good work as Musical Director, and Benjamin Merte on bass) and you have a martini that is well-served shaken or stirred — or in this case a little of both.

A highly entertaining evening out smack dab in the center of Pinkney — for Ann Arborites, thats a 15 minute drive north and a 15 minute drive west, and its a pretty drive. Go. Its fun. Its delicious. And its another great production for this new professional theater company in Livingston County.

Forever Plaid runs through August 3rd. Tickets at: http://www.diotheatre.co or 517-672-6009 or at their box office 135 East Main Street, Pinkney, MI.

Forever Plaid at Encore is terrific entertainment (review) April 22, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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Forever Plaid, which opened tonight at the Encore Musical Theater Company in Dexter, will bring you “plaid tidings”, um, you’ll be “plaid you went”, er…you’ll “boldy go where no plaid has gone before”….

Yeah, okay, it’s that kind of show…and it is terrific. The actors are wonderful, the scenic design spiffy, and the entire evening fun and entertaining. There are even a few stage surprises along the way, and tribute Barb Cullen for another great directing/choreography job at Encore. The pacing is swift, the numbers flow from song to song, and it makes for a great evening of musical theater, with emphasis on the music part.

There isn’t much to the story — Plaids die in car crash, mysteriously re-appear for one last concert together, sing, frolic, and generally make mischievous fun with an evening of early 60’s songs sung in tight harmonies, solos, duets, and combinations. There’s a mirror ball, and bubbles. Lights twinkle merrily in the set (sometimes too merrily).

But oh what plaid tidings the actors bring to this production!

Leo Daignault (Jinx) brings years of Plaid lineage to the show having performed in Boston, San Diego, Tokyo, and Chicago with the show. He’s great in a performance that ranges from subtly nuanced to, well, not subtle or nuanced.

Steve DeBruyne (Frankie) turns in another outstanding Encore performance. Serving as the Plaid’s leader he’s a fine entertainer. New York Agents take note — this actor needs representation!

Phill Harmer (Smudge) is hilarious — I couldn’t stop laughing at his takes, facial expressions, and comic timing. His “Sixteen Tons” is ridiculous. I loved it.

But most of all, I liked Sebastian Gerstner (Sparky) in this production. He’s hard to resist throughout — his eyes twinkle with merriment, he’s a fine actor on top of being a great singer and dancer, and were those tears I saw welling up in the final sequence?  The “my mother/my stepmother” sequence between he and Leo was the comic highlight of the show. Great job.

Kudos also to pianist Brian E. Buckner, and Billy Satterwhite on bass.

“Forever Plaid” holds a special place in my theater heart — my nextdoor neighbor in NYC was Jason Graae of the original production, and I can’t count the number of times I saw the original at Steve McGraw’s in NYC. I am happy to say that, while very different from that production, Encore’s is every bit as entertaining. There’s a bit less dancing, but it’s offset by a bit more heart. And the vocal work is tremendous.

The show is not without one or two slow spots; and the arrival of the cast onstage in their plaid jackets for the final sequence does not have enough emotional resonance, but those are minor quibbles. This is a generally zippy intermission-less 90 minutes of solid entertainment.

Go treat yourself to a spring treat at the Encore. Forever Plaid runs through May 15th, and tickets are available online at theencoretheater.org, or by calling 734-268-6200.