(Victor Valley) – The dynamic duo of Tom Hannett and Danny Thorn are bringing great family entertainment to the stage once again at the High Desert Center for the Arts with the time honored favorite “Forever Plaid”, set to open February 17th.
More of a revue than a traditional play, “Forever Plaid” tells the story of a male pop quartet that was killed in a car crash on the way to their first professional gig, and has been stuck ever since in some kind of limbo. They return to earth for one night only, in order to give their concert and fulfill their dream, filling the stage with hokey comedy, endearing personal revelations, and tons of gorgeous close-harmony singing.
A show like this relies heavily on the singing of the cast and producer Tom Hannett and director Danny Thorn have assembled a fine collection of voices. The balance and blend between the four voices is excellent and the harmonies are amazing.
The group, The Plaids, is based on all the great four-man groups of the late ’50s and early ’60s like the Lettermen and Four Freshmen, with affectionate tributes to such cultural icons as Ed Sullivan and Perry Como. Forever Plaid is an audience pleaser for most any age group.
As rehearsals are going on, costumes are made, and sets are built, I had the chance to sit down and talk with each of the Plaids. This is my interview with Patrick Summers who plays “Sparky” in the show:
High Desert Daily: Tell us about your theater background.
Patrick: When I was 12 years old I started doing music. I was interested in playing instruments, so I started playing piano and other things like that, then singing. About 3 years ago I got involved with the community in this area as a musical director, vocal coach, rehearsal pianist.
I’m here because I knew Robert Keil Blomker II who was involved with Creative Arts Theater. Robert suggested that I come in to be the musical director, and things actually went from there. We sing together a lot; we’re in several groups together.
HDD: Tell us about your character in the show.
Patrick: My character, Sparky, is the comic nut guy, the clown. They used a word in the description of his character “imp”. He starts off with a speech impediment, so he has a retainer and he does his first lines and the first half of the song with his retainer in. I’m looking forward to that, having to sing with a retainer. I’ve tried to do it, but my tongue is not used to it, so it stops the sound all of the time. Sometimes I don’t actually speak.
Sparky is the joker. He loves to make sure that the audience is laughing. He loves to make sure that everyone feels more down to earth, even though we’re dead in the show. I try to mesh everything together to make things seem less drastic and huge, and a big deal. That’s kind of what I feel like I’m supposed to do as a character. I sing a couple of funny songs, all of them are funny, but I sing the ones that are about things we really don’t know about, but we sing about them anyway because that’s just something we did as Plaids. Then there’s one moment where my character meets Perry Como, and I do a song that’s dedicated to him, and that’s my most serious moment. There is only one serious moment in that play for my character, and that’s it. It’s going to be great.
HDD: What characteristic do you identify most with your character?
Patrick: The comedic part, making sure that things aren’t as huge as they are. Because in reality nothing is really as drastic and bad as things seem. So he is an optimistic character, I’m an optimistic person. And so I very much relate to making sure that everybody feels comfortable, and feeling less that life is beating them up.
HDD: Was your part easy to learn?
Patrick: Yes, just simply because I relate to it. I have a horrible time memorizing lines, it’s hard for me, because I spend so much time in an orchestra pit, or working behind the scenes vocal teaching and coaching, I never had to memorize anything. I tell the actors what to do, they do it, I forget it, and they need to remember. So memorizing things is a little bit tougher for me, but I’m getting it.
HDD: What do you think of the music?
Patrick: I love it! This is the music I relate to, I should have been born back then. About 3 years ago I was a cocktail pianist. I do Jazz, so that’s what I relate to most is Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Michael Bublé – he isn’t from the same era but he does that kind of music – I do that in like a cruise setting, a lounge, with a singer and its really hushed and nice romantic stuff. So this music is what I relate to, what I like.
HDD: Is there anything about this show that is different from other shows you’ve been in previously?
Patrick: Mainly the music, the harmonies, the complexity of it all. In a lot of musicals, probably every single one that’s out there right now, somebody can “not” sing their part and it will still sound good, because there are so many people in the cast, and because the harmonies are very spaced. With this show there are only 4 people, but even if there was 16 people singing it, because its only 4 parts, and because it’s so tight, if somebody gets their note wrong it throws off the entire chord, and then it potentially it can throw off the rest of what we’re doing. So the main difference is that it is so complex – it can be beautiful, and it has been, but it is so complex that it really takes listening, and being a musician and not just a singer.
HDD: What are you hoping the audience takes away from this show?
Patrick: A renewed sense of life, that’s what I want. I want them to leave and feel like there are still some smiles left in the world. I want them to leave and feel like we touched something in them that makes them want to be like those characters – optimistic, kind of goofy, not worrying, but knowing how to work when it’s necessary. Those are huge goals. But the main thing is just to leave the theater refreshed, that’s what I’d like.
HDD: What behind the scenes stuff do you want to share?
Tony: My instrument – the Melodica! It’s fun – it’s an accordion, but instead of moving it out and in to get the airflow through the notes, you use your own air. I fit right in with it because I started on a saxophone, that’s my first instrument, so I have the lung capacity and the ability to breathe and do that. Also because I play the piano, so I just fit right in with that. The Melodica is required in the script, but I will be doing some “shredding” as they say in the Jazz world and the Rock n Roll world.
Other behind the scenes stuff – the rehearsals are difficult because we’re all professional musicians, we all get paid for what we do, we don’t get paid for this, but we get paid for singing outside of this. So, sometimes we clash, but during those times we tend to joke around more. Some of the choreography and things that you’ll see started out as us making fun of somebody, but then it worked. We’d say “Oh cool, it works, we’ll do it!” and then we’re all friends again.
It’s a lot of fun bringing our characters together with their characters in the show, and then being them together, we all seem to fit our character, so it’s a lot just like being friends and messing around all the time.
Forever Plaid was written and originally directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross. The show opens at the High Desert Center for the Arts on February 17th, with show dates Feb 18th, 20th, 24th, 25th, 27th, and March 2nd and 3rd.
Tickets are available DB Music in Hesperia 760-949-3838. Or e-mail for more information Hannett_Thorn_Productions@yahoo.com.