Vocal Boys Make Good

By Carolyn Hayes Harmer

Upon opening, The Dio - Dining & Entertainment carefully selected the darling musical "Forever Plaid" (by Stuart Ross) as its statement first dinner-theater production. That was in 2013, when unexpected obstacles forced the run of the show to be truncated after its first weekend. But the company proceeded unruffled, and is now one year in and going strong, giving "Forever Plaid" a proper return. Helmed by cofounder and director Steve DeBruyne, the current production at last showcases what made it such an apropos entertainment selection for this cozy Pinckney venue, pairing a savory buffet dinner with a show that's earnestly sweet.

The Dio's resident chef, Jarod, knows his way around a chafing dish, creating a spread of rich entrees and sides that stay appetizing throughout the dining service. There's standard-issue green salad and warm breadsticks, fresh Waldorf salad and buttery sauteed vegetables, breaded boneless chicken crisp enough to write home about, and a pasta dish clotted with cheese and sausage. The stuff is reminiscent of a favorite homemade special-occasion meal, the kind that leaves stomachs straining in pleasure before coffee and dessert even hit the table.

Then it's on from gastronomical feats to theatrical ones, as the attention shifts front and center to "Forever Plaid," in which a semiprofessional 1950s guy group returns to Earth from the hereafter to at long last realize its harmonic ambitions. Plaids Frankie (DeBruyne), Jinx (Jarod Schneider), Sparky (Cody Musteffe), and Smudge (Thomas Mate) are humorously rusty at their old shtick, but their pipes remain refined and attuned, thanks in large part to music director George Cullinan, who also conducts coolly from an onstage keyboard (joined by bassist Benjamin Merte).

Overcoming physical ailments and paralyzing stage fright, the quartet bops and reverberates through its revue of standards, primarily crooning into handheld microphones that become part of Cara Manor's snappy-smooth unison choreography. Matthew Tomich is credited with set, lighting, and sound design, leaning into the lounge-y feel of the deeply hued space with gauzy hues that are reflected in the Plaids' sharp white dinner jackets (by costumer Norma Polk).

There are scripted breaks from the show's main trajectory, be they very Plaid diversions into other genres, or segues intended to dig deeper into the different personalities. Indeed, each actor has his own eccentricity: serious Schneider petrified of any blunder, vigilant Mate giving his peripheral vision a workout to crib the next step, baby-faced Musteffe getting carried away with himself, and ringleader DeBruyne doling out instructions and corrections. But with each digression, the group quickly springs back like a rubber band into its wheelhouse, with the wannabe lounge lizards reverting to their true blue Boy Scout selves, and to the superior four-part harmonic modulation for which these romantic ballads were written.

Metaphysical mystery, interpersonal relationships, and comic gaffes aside, this "Forever Plaid" is best at what the Plaids themselves do best: the music. The whole of the experience is a treat for eardrums and taste buds alike, ready and waiting to indulge viewers itching for a whole night out.

REVIEW:

'Forever Plaid'

The Dio - Dining and Entertainment

135 E. Main St., Pinckney

12:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4

6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8, 15, 22, 29, Sept. 5

6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, 16, 23, 30, Sept. 6

12:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24, 29, Sept. 7

90 minutes; no intermission

$35-41

517-672-6009

http://www.diotheatre.com

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