“Forever Plaid” has a forever feel for all four of the actors.
Rich Phipps, Syd Loomis and Howard Baetzhold performed in the same role together for 10 consecutive years. The fourth actor, Darrin Gowan, is joining the trio for the first time but played his same role in 2003 for another theater.
The Carmel Community Players will present the musical from Sept. 21 to Oct. 7 at The Cat Theatre in Carmel. The three actors performed in the show together at CCP the first time in 2001. They then reprised their roles for nine years at different venues, primarily for fundraisers.
“The groups are modeled around the groups of the ’50s, like The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen and the Four Lads,” said Phipps, a Carmel resident who is the producer and plays Frankie. “The name ‘Forever Plaid’ is a take-off on the Four Lads. We are supposed to be high school students in the ‘50s and we all met in the audio/visual club. We started rehearsing in the basement of Smudge’s family plumbing supplies company. We start performing at school dances, bowling alley functions and weddings. We’re on our way to pick up our new tuxedos for our first big concert at the airport lounge in Pittsburgh. We were side-swiped by a bus of girls that was on its way to see The Beatles on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1964. We were killed instantly.
“Metaphorically, it was out with the old music and in with the new. Through some holes in the ozone layer and so forth, we are able to come back in 2018 and do the show we never got to do.”
There are 29 songs from the 1950s and ‘60s, including songs from groups like the harmony quartets along with Perry Como and Harry Belafonte.
“We always figure the cast of ‘Forever Plaid’ can be any age as long as they look like they might have all gone to high school together,” Phipps said. “It’s got some bittersweet moments. It’s got a lot of humor.”
Sandy Baetzhold, Noblesville, serves as the director, musical director and accompanist. Her husband, Baetzhold, plays Smudge.
“I was musical director when we did it in 2001, and after that we kept it together,” she said. “We averaged doing it once or twice for the next nine years. I sure never thought I’d do it again, but I’m happy that I am. This is a perfect venue for the show.”
Loomis, a Cicero resident, performs as Jinx. Darrin Gowan, from Indianapolis, plays Sparky.
“I’m the asthmatic second tenor leader,” Phipps said. “We all have our foibles. Sparky has a retainer and has a bit of lisp. Jinx has a nose-bleed problem when he sings his high notes. Smudge is dyslexic and has a stomach problem.”
Gowan said his character is the baritone.
“He thinks he’s the funny one and ladies’ man, although it doesn’t turn out that way,” Gowan said. “It was just what the popular music used to be when you saw ‘The Perry Como Show’ or “The Andy Williams Show.’ My parents played this music like I play classic rock for my kids.”
Loomis said his character is shy and timid and is Sparky’s stepbrother.
“The high notes are getting higher with age,” Loomis said.
Phipps said they expected a younger crowd to audition for the roles this time, but they didn’t.
“I wasn’t going to be in it. I was going to co-direct it with Sandy,” Phipps said. “After two nights, it became apparent I should audition, and we got some of these other guys. Darrin had already auditioned.”
Where: The Cat Theatre, 254 Veterans Way, Carmel
When: Nine performances, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, 22, 28, 29, Oct. 5, 6; 2:30 p.m., Sept. 23, Sept. 30, Oct. 7.
Tickets: $18 for students and seniors and $20 for adults. Visit carmelplayers.org.