Tempe Little Theatre, that occasionally spunky community playhouse, is finishing out its season with a repertory of “Forever Plaid” and “The Taffetas,” and the pairing makes perfect sense.
Both shows traffic in the sweet four-part harmonies of 1950s vocal pop. Both require very little set design or frills — just a small band in the corner, a mirror ball set to spin and an audience ready to take a retro ride back to a gentler time on the radio dial.
At center stage is a quartet of crooners; for “Taffetas,” it’s a sister group making its first television appearance, while the Plaids are a boy outfit supposedly back from the grave (just go with it) to give one last concert.
Nostalgia personified, no wonder these musical revues get staged an awful lot here in the Valley.
When it comes to TLT’s repertory, you won’t go wrong with either one. In the Tempe Performing Arts Center’s modest black box theater space, the company and two savvy directors have assembled shows that float on a cloud of pure, unadulterated charm.
I happen to like director Toni Fioramonti’s “Taffetas” more. An ode to an era of pins and letterman jackets, of necking at the park and playing What Would Annette Funicello Do?, the show would be a John Watersworthy parody of itself if it weren’t so golly-shucks sincere.
Jeffrey J. Davey’s “Forever Plaid” has a somewhat harder go. The boy group includes rotund talent Jere Van Patten — toning down somewhat his nerdy bit from, well, “The Nerd” recently at the Hale Centre Theatre — but for all their lush Beach Boys harmonies, the guys can’t match the magical sounds of their female counterparts.
Both stagings suffer from identical audio problems: Tinny-sounding headset microphones on their performers and loudspeakers pointed only to the first couple of rows. The mix might be great there, but for those of us in the middle and chairs farther back, it’s a midrange-y muffle that sometimes sounds like spending the afternoon listening to the ol’ RCA Victrola.
If you go
“The Taffetas” runs 2 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. July 2. “Forever Plaid” runs 8 p.m. Saturday. Both shows at the Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 E. Sixth St. $14, $12 for students and seniors. (480) 350-8388 or www.tempelittle theatre.org.
Grades: “The Taffetas,” B+; “Forever Plaid,” B-