SCOTTSBLUFF — Final rehearsals are underway as the cast and crew of Theatre West’s production of “Forever Plaid” prepares for opening curtain Friday.
While the set crew finishes up set construction and the actors fine tune the musical performances, construction workers are busy installing the theater seat arms and 409 chairs. Final adjustments on the sound system is on hold until after the seat installation, since the seats will change the tonal quality of the theater.
With the summer season about to open, the set crew is finishing up the archway and wooden upright piano shell for the production. The “Forever Plaid” set was created out of wood pieces from previous sets and temporary walls around the theater classroom. Using sanders and a table saw, Ian Wonderly, James Maag and Richard Salako prepared the wood surfaces for paint Monday morning.
“I’m excited to see how we do,” Wonderly said.
Maag said he is hopeful he and his fellow set crew members can get everything accomplished before opening night and Salako just hopes for the best.
Kris Kontour supervised their progress and said building sets in a different location can be a challenge.
“We’ll do three shows in eight weeks,” Kontour said. “It’s a lot. Quite often you get six weeks to build a set for a show and now we get two weeks.”
To meet deadlines, Kontour said it is important to work efficiently and effectively. Another element to this year’s Theatre West season is working with the construction workers. Kontour said they are treating it like a touring show with the plan to load the set up the night before the curtain rises.
Ahead of opening night, Kontour intends to load set pieces on the stage, so they can see how the sound bounces back into the audience.
As they prep the stage pieces to move them into the new theater later this week, Wonderly said his favorite moment about being involved in a stage production process is seeing the finished set.
“My favorite part is when you’re done and the lights are on it, but the actors aren’t on the stage yet, so it’s just an empty set,” Wonderly said. “The paint has dried and the lights are on it. It looks good.”
Walking into the new Judy Chaloupka Theater Monday, Patrick Newell said he was excited to see the progress. Newell is the artistic director for Theatre West.
As the theater gets set to open Friday, Newell said there is a surprise for the audience during “Forever Plaid.”
“There’s a little surprise at the end of ‘Forever Plaid’ in the theater,” Newell said, not giving any reveals.
Monday was the anticipated day when the cast could rehearse on stage for the first time but with construction still happening, they worked on choreography and the vocal arrangements in a rehearsal room. “Forever Plaid” director James Alexander Bond is confident in the acting abilities of his cast to put on a good show, but is hopeful to have a couple rehearsals on stage before Friday night.
“Today (Monday) was supposed to be the first day on stage,” Bond said. “I’d like to have a day or so in the theater. I’m hoping tomorrow, but it might be Wednesday or Thursday.”
With the date of dress rehearsal still up in the air, Bond is adapting the rehearsal room to best prepare his actors. Monday was the first day the four lead actors could not face the mirrors as they performed their synchronized routines.
This is Bond’s first time directing “Forever Plaid,” but he brings over 20 years of experience to the stage.
The story of four men invites the audience to reminisce about popular music throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
“There’s a lot of difficult music,” Bond said. “There’s a lot of choreography and each of the actors play a character that has a unique personality that has to blend together.”
Once the actors have captured the spirit of their roles, Bond said his job as the director is to make sure everyone is on the same page, so everyone works toward the same vision, which he sees as the storyline of the show.
“Forever Plaid” follows the lives of four men, Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie, who discovered they shared a love for music and got together to become their idols — The Four Freshman, The Hi-Lo’s and The Crew Cuts. The group Forever Plaid formed as they rehearsed in the basement of Smudge’s family’s plumbing supply company. After hours of rehearsals, they head to their first big gig when they are broadsided by a school bus, killing them instantly. When their lives and careers come to an end, the story of Forever Plaid begins.
“What I think the show says is however limited your time on Earth may be, if you can have one truly perfect moment, it means you’ve had a life well lived,” Bond said.
A challenge preparing for this year’s season is adjusting to the new space.
“It’s going to be brand new and we’re going to have all this great stuff, but no theater is perfect,” Bond said. “We haven’t learned this is a dead spot for sound or we don’t have that lighting angle. Now we have to learn it all over again.”
Theatre West’s production of “Forever Plaid” opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. Other showings are June 15, 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. and June 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the new box office and lobby at Western Nebraska Community College, by calling 308-635-6193 or online at theatrewestnebraska.com.