As I reflect back on my life I do have many fond memories of my home town of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I grew up in the 1950's and enjoyed the music of the era. My mom would always be listening to Perry Como or those four-part harmony groups like The Lettermen, The Four Aces, The Four Freshman and The Crew Cuts. Ingrained in my mind are songs like "Moments To Remember", "Papa Loves Mambo" and "Lady of Spain."
Of course that was thirty-some years ago. I'm much older now, but occasionally I think back to that time when the world was much more innocent. Wilkes-Barre is now only a memory as I now live in Las Vegas and New York. One of the most difficult times in the coal mining town of Wilkes-Barre's memory is the summer of 1972 when the Wrath of Agnes flooded the city.
And even before, I have memories of when the Beatles played in the Comerford Theater in their film A Hard Day's Night. Pandemonium nearly broke out as the lines formed around the square to see and hear the sounds of Rock 'n Roll on celluloid. The Beatles, Wilkes-Barre, the Flood of Agnes ... and one can't forget the tragic accident of February 9, 1964.
A local Wilkes-Barre group of four singers were on their way to a gig at the airport's Fusel Lounge where they were to perform that night. They had been together since high school, graduating in 1956. And like their idols, the four part harmony groups of their day, they practiced their singing in the basement and sang at weddings, Bar Mitzvah's or at the proms of the local high schools. On that dreary night, they travelled to the airport and were killed instantly in a terrible highway crash, being rammed by a school bus full of Catholic teenagers on their way to New York to see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was 1964, the birth of the Beatles, and the death of a group known as Forever Plaid.
Now, what if, just what if, Forever Plaid were caught in the cosmos, in a time warp, if you will, and were able to come back to earth and perform that final concert as they had planned on the night of the fatal collision with the Catholic virgins? Then come with me to the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas where Forever Plaid performs nightly.
This rather clever little show is based on the premise that we, the audience, are going to witness that final concert. Of course, the Plaids are fictional but I knew many who formed their own quartets back then, singing in a style which seems to have disappeared since the birth of the Beatles. The precision movements, identical tuxedos or perhaps white bucks and cardigan sweaters were the trademarks of such groups.
Written, directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross, Forever Plaid is a delightful trip down memory lane. Not only will you hear some sensational singing by the quartet but you'll laugh heartily as the Plaids come across as amateurish wanna-bees not quite getting the precision movements. However, there's nothing amateur about this production. J. Gregory Davis, Douglas Frank, Ricky Russell and Joey Sorge all possess great voices and killer comic timing .
When the Flamingo Hilton first presented this show back in 1995, they had no idea what they had, perhaps, thinking it would play only a few months. Instead, what they got was a real bona fide hit on their hands and they've been selling out nightly since.
This completes our little trip to Las Vegas where we saw EFX starring Tommy Tune at the MGM Grand, Chicago starring Chita Rivera at the Mandalay Bay, and Broadway Cabaret at the San Remo. And now you can add Forever Plaid to your must list when you visit the city of entertainment.
Forever Plaid Bugsy's Celebrity Theatre at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel. $21.95. For tickets call (702) 733-3333.
See you Sunday!
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