“Forever Plaid” is all about life not going as planned but still getting the chance to live out a big dream. The same could be said for the production.
Originally intended to be the opening for Robidoux Resident Theatre’s new theatrical space, the Ruby Theatre, unforeseen circumstances moved the intimate, four-person musical to one of the biggest stages in the area.
“My first thought was ‘OK, how can we make this show on such a grand stage and keep the sanity of the actors as well?’” director Jessica Agnew says.
The classic musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, Sept. 21 and 22, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Missouri Theater, 717 Edmond St.
Inspired by ’50s and ’60s quartets like The Hi-Lo’s and The Four Freshman, “Forever Plaid’s” characters connect over a deep love of music. That love shared between Frankie (Jackson Connors), Sparky (Joseph Kellogg), Jinx (Bemo Myers) and Smudge (Steve Snider) has them form their own group, The Plaids.
On their way to their first big gig, the vocal quartet is killed in a car accident. But the group is given a second chance in the afterlife to perform its big show.
The fourth production under Agnew’s direction at the Missouri Theater, “Forever Plaid” differs greatly from her previously efforts.
“The last show I directed on the Missouri Theater stage was ‘Annie.’ That was a cast of 50, plus a dog. To go from 50 from four (actors) is a very different mindset,” she says, laughing.
The cast and crew were up to the challenge of a bigger stage. It was a matter of how to keep the show intimate enough to do it justice.
“The show itself is more simplistic in nature. It needs an intimate space so it can connect with its audience. So how do you do that?” Agnew says.
The answer: Making the stage feel smaller so the cast can establish a relationship with everyone in the audience.
“They’re right there connecting with the audience members,” Agnew says. “(We) just wanted to be able to create as much of an intimate space as possible in a larger space. I believe we’ve been able to do that.”
It meant the actors’ actions and voice projection has to be bigger and more physical.
“There’s a couple of numbers where they have a lot of props. They have to run off and on stage. So, it’s like, how do they do that when the distance is double in size?” Agnew says.
The production has risen to the occasion, embracing the challenges of working in a bigger setting without losing the emotional thread of the musical.
“I was excited for the challenge because I knew my guys would be able to do it,” Agnew says.
When RRT made the announcement about the move, volunteers jumped on board to assist with the transition of the musical to a bigger stage. It also has some “Plaid” veterans, including Snider and Myers and choreographer Shaun Agnew to help maintain the show’s vision.
The change also seemed to work well with the show’s themes.
“If you think about the plot itself, here’s a group of four guys who come back to Earth. They want to do the show that they’ve always wanted to do, their final, last show. How cool is it in ‘Plaid’ for them to be able to come back to this huge theater to perform their last show?” Agnew says.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live