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'Forever Plaid' to open 2011 Paul Bunyan Playhouse season

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse will open its 61st season of professional summer theater tonight with "Forever Plaid," which will run through June 18. From left, Daniel Lundin, Matthew Goinz, Joshua Hinck and Ryan Parker Knox rehearse a musical selection Tuesday morning. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

In this debut performance for the Paul Bunyan Playhouse's 61st season of professional summer theater, artistic director Zach Curtis listened to the audience and brought back the play that was at the top of everyone's list.

"Forever Plaid" by Stuart Ross has become an international favorite since it first played off-Broadway in 1990, and although on the stage at the historic Chief Theatre and Ruttger's more than once, it remains a consistent favorite with young and not-so-young alike. "Forever Plaid" is the name chosen by this quartet of young high school buddies as they begin to seek their fame and fortune around their small hometown that could have been anywhere in the United States in that era.

Representative of the numerous singing groups that sprang up in basements, backyards, churches and schools across America in the '50s and '60s they were just trying to find the right key and the right song to make it big. Or, as is the case with this particular foursome, just make it to the aptly named Fusill-Lounge airport bar for the biggest concert of their young careers.

Unfortunately, on the way to pick up four brand new custom-made plaid tuxes for the big show, their cherry-red 1954 Mercury convertible is hit broadside. A busload of Catholic schoolgirls, on their way to see the Ed Sullivan show featuring a not-yet-famous British singing group known as The Beatles, changes Plaid history forever and although the girls were fine, the Plaids were not.

Miraculously, the four young singers are revived for a posthumous chance at fulfilling their dream and the opportunity to bring the audience heavenly harmony on such songs as "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Undecided," "Moments to Remember," "Sixteen Tons," "Rags to Riches" and the tune they were practicing when the big yellow bus struck, "Love is a Many Splendored Thing."

Close your eyes and you can imagine the porch swing gently swaying beneath you or the breeze in your hair as you cruise town with the top down, listening to the radio playing "Heart and Soul...I fell in love with you...Heart and Soul." And who didn't learn how to play that duet on the family piano? So now, through a twist of fate, Forever Plaid singers get to perform the show that never was for the biggest audience they never had. Although still threatened by all the ailments they suffered in life -stage fright, nose bleeds, asthma and ulcers, not to mention the ever looming inevitable end to their limbo, the four manage to overcome it all. Providing the audience with so much more than melodies, The Ed Sullivan Show as interpreted by this foursome, was never quite this entertaining.

This production features the abilities of local talent such as Jessie Ladig choreographing the smooth moves of Forever Plaid, Abe Hunter accompanying the blending of the harmonies on his piano and Matthew Goinz as musical director, juggling the various parts for the best effect. Matthew also plays Smudge, the bass singer of the group, and he is joined by actors already familiar to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse audience. Ryan Parker Knox as Frankie, Joshua Hinck plays Sparky and Jinx is portrayed by Daniel Lundin. In the capable hands of this melodic group, the tragic night of Feb. 9, 1964, comes alive again onstage at the historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji.

The show opens at 8 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, June 8. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 751-7270 or going online at

Tickets for the 8 p.m. evening performances are $22 for adults, $15 for students and $20 for groups of 10 or more. The Sunday matinee tickets are $15.

"Forever Plaid" is followed by "A Midsummer Night's Dream" June 22-July 2, "Lend Me a Tenor" July 6-16, "21A" July 20-30 and the musical finale "The Full Monty" Aug. 3-13.