by Jean Brenner

Shore Repertory Theatre Company presents (from left to right ): Jan Topoleski ( Brick, NJ), Joe Zachowski (Turnersville, NJ), Matthew Rae (Wayne, NJ), Joseph Ficarra (Ocean, NJ) in FOREVER PLAID at Kelsey Theatre through August 28.

“Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Catch A Falling Star,” “Heart and Soul,” “Rags to Riches,” and finally, “”Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.” These were just a few of the 25 songs sung in close harmony by four men from Shore Repertory Theatre Company performing at the Kelsey Theatre Friday night, August. 26.

This is not exactly the kind of music today’s teens choose for their iPods, and certainly it is not the kind of music they would hasten to the Kelsey to hear.

However, their grandparents love these tunes, and a substantial number of grandparents comprised the audience at the Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College on Friday night listening to music sung by four talented guys, Jan Topoleski (Frankie), Joseph Ficarra (Smudge), Joe Zachowski (Sparky) and Matthew Rae (Jinx), accompanied by Anthony Didia (music director and pianist) and by Justin Lee on upright bass.

And, this writer, too, loves the familiar, singable, memorable diversified music. I could understand the lyrics; the music was not repetitious, there was no loud percussion; it was wholesome. Can you imagine!

Right at the outset, the guys tell the story…they were just out of high school, on their way to a gig when their car was hit by a bus filled with schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. All four of them died in that 1964 crash. The girls lived. All the music they knew was from before that period, and that’s what they sing as fate brings them back for one final performance – the one the audience sees.

This musical revue could be deadly if all the Plaids did was sing, but they mix it up, telling stories, acting silly, showing the diversity of their characters, unified by the desire to entertain.

Director and choreographer Gina Lupi gave the men plenty of movement so they would not become static, using props, pretending to sing into microphones or long handled plungers. Lupi, Topoleski, and Ryan Muhollland did good costume design. Lighting designer and operator Bill Smonelli assisted by John Czekaj did a fine job making the show look interesting. Jan Topoleski produced. Sound control is not mentioned in the program, but someone made sure the singers were heard via face and hand held mics and their voices were mixed well.

Conversation fragments I heard expressed by exiting patrons as we left the Kelsey on the night before Hurricane Irene was expected to hit, were very favorable…”How enjoyable!” “Loved the music!”

Personally, I wish the Plaids had been younger guys, closer to the ages of the ones who died in the crash, but do any young people sing this kind of music today? It might have been difficult to cast if Gina Lupi had insisted on the roles being age appropriate!

In any case, Shore Rep can take pride in knowing they were successful in fulfilling their mission of offering a high-quality production.

Forever Plaid opened last weekend and is scheduled to play Saturday evening at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 PM. However, the Plaids could be slammed by Irene in 2011 rather than by a bus of schoolgirls. A call to the Kelsey about whether performances will be go one would be wise: 609-570-3333. Mercer County Community College is located at 1200 Old Trenton Rd., West Windsor, NJ.

by Stuart Ross
Directed by Gina Lupi
August 19-28, 2011
Shore Repertory Theatre Company
at The Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Rd
West Windsor, NJ
609-570-3333 (box office)

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