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'Forever Plaid' an amiable romp through nostalgia

| Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004

For theatergoers, "Forever Plaid" offers more than just another show to see.

It's also a different way to see theater in the Cultural District.

Tuesday night's opening of "Forever Plaid" was also the debut of the CLO Cabaret, a 250-seat venue that offers a more intimate and casual entertainment experience along with the option of having food and drink delivered to your table.

The chairs are remarkably comfortable. While the tables can become crowded when four patrons are sampling drinks and snacks, they're far larger than you'll find in similar cabarets or nightclubs in other cities. Food service on opening night was understandably somewhat confused as waitstaff struggled with new stations and an unfamiliar menu. But that's likely to improve with a week or two of experience.

Stuart Ross' "Forever Plaid" is an amiable revue of 1950s music that's sure to put the glow back into the love life of folks of a certain age. It's a live jukebox packed with smoothly sung romantic golden oldies such as "Moments to Remember," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and some of the era's lighter but no less catchy hits, including "Sixteen Tons," and Latin tunes including "Kingston Market," "Matilda" and "Day-O."

A well-rehearsed and engaging quartet of talented youngsters -- J.D. Daw, Joe Domencic, Adam Halpin and Marcus Stevens -- play the singing group that is and was "The Plaids."

The show's organizing principle is that The Plaids were four young guys from the Osterizer School of Harmony whose aspiration was to join the big-time world of groups they idolized, like The Lettermen, The Four Freshmen and The Crew Cuts. But as they approached what they believed might be the on ramp to the fast lane of success, they were killed in a freak collision with a busload of teens on their way to see the Beatles debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The CLO Cabaret has been transformed into an approximation of the faux glamour of the Airport Hilton's Fusel-Lounge, where The Plaids had been scheduled to play. It's a turquoise and silver stage trapped in architectural limbo between Art Deco and 1950s International style. The stage is flanked by potted palms and illuminated by an ever-changing aurora borealis of lighting that shifts with each song's mood. There's also the requisite mirrored ball and some stalks of illuminated bananas.

As it approached its closing numbers, the opening night performance was flawed by the loud and insistent electronic bleat and blink of a fire alarm reportedly triggered by a new smoke machine. The Plaids soldiered on through the five-minute warning frenzy while edgy patrons eyed the exit signs. Mercifully, it was a false alarm that ceased its blare just as The Plaids segued into their finale.

According to the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's plans, the open-ended run of "Forever Plaid" should continue for at least a year. Some November and December performances already are sold out. Others will be, too, if the enthusiasm of the opening night crowd is any gauge. Additional Information:

Details

'Forever Plaid'

Produced by: Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for an indefinite open-ended run

Admission: $25 to $36

Where: CLO Cabaret at Theater Square, 655 Penn Ave., Downtown

Details: (412) 456-6666 or www.clocabaret.com

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