Starting tonight, plaid is back in fashion. The four tartan patterns may clash a bit, but the four voices that wear them don't.
The quartet of Baltimore singers brings back to life the members of Forever Plaid, a band of high school guys who love to sing doo-wop and barbershop jingles. Here's the story: On their way to pick up snazzy plaid tuxedos for their first big gig, they are killed when their car is hit by a bus full of teenagers going to see the Beatles' debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Now, they've come back from heaven to perform the concert that never was - a medley of upbeat, familiar classics from the 1950s and '60s.
The catchy revue begins tonight, kicking off the 24th Maryland Arts Festival at Towson University - six weeks of musicals and plays designed to make the arts more accessible.
How do four young men get into their roles as the squeaky-clean squares of the Plaids?
"I have an old soul," said Towson University graduate Paul Wissman, 25, who plays Sparky and admits to having many of the classic songs in his computer's music files. "I've got my grandmother's taste in music."
Ben Kingsland, a senior at the Johns Hopkins University who plays Smudge, wasn't familiar with many of the show's songs, such as "Chain Gang," "Magic Moments" and a montage of melodies by Perry Como. But, he said, it wasn't a hard genre to warm up to.
"The tight harmonies are really fun," Kingsland said before a rehearsal. "Each song says something about the characters."
A plethora of plaid cummerbunds, suspenders, bow-ties and handkerchiefs, the outfits are "almost blinding - it's like day-glo," said Ron Giddings, 24, a Loyola College alumnus who teaches English and theater at Calvert Hall College in Towson. Giddings plays Jinx, one of the foursome. Even the brick-painted backdrop seems to melt into a plaid-like pattern.
But, he said, that's the great rule of plaid: It never really clashes, no matter how many different colors there are.
"This really is a for-everyone show," he said. "Even if you don't know the music, you'll have a great time."
With the Plaids' over-the-top costumes and choreography, this doo-wop revival just might have audiences seeing plaid in their sleep.
"Forever Plaid" starts tonight at the Auburn House Pavilion on the Towson campus and plays tomorrow, Sunday, June 24 and July 7, 10, 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and June 26 and July 17, 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $17 for seniors, $13 for students, $10 for children under 12. Visit http://wwwnew.towson.edu/maf/ for more information.
For more theater, classical music and dance events, see Page 37.
Maryland Arts Festival
The Maryland Arts Festival also includes:
Ragtime, one of the largest productions put on by Towson University, plays at Stephens Hall Theatre on July 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m. and July 10 and 17 at 2 p.m.
The Kathy & Mo Show: Parallel Lives, a story of two women facing the trials of their suburban lives, plays at Auburn House Pavilion on June 23, 25, 26, 30, July 1, 9, 14, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Milkshake, a family sing-along concert, plays at Auburn House Pavilion on June 25 at 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy, a one-man show of scenes from comic Steve Solomon's life, plays at Stephens Hall on July 30 at 8 p.m. and July 31 at 3 p.m.
Capitol Steps, presented by a group of former and current congressional staffers that takes a funny look at issues and personalities in the Oval Office and on Capitol Hill, plays at Stephens Hall Theatre on July 28 at 8 p.m.
Koresh Dance Company, a dance performance by the Philadelphia group combining ballet, modern and jazz, can be seen at Stephens Hall Theatre on July 29 at 8 p.m.