If a group of head-shaven guys dressed in T-shirts, loose low-riding jeans, screaming bizarre, deep lyrics doesn’t seem to fit your style, then try “The Cardigans” on for size.
In the Tupelo Community Theatre dinner theatre production, the four fraternity brothers of Wooster College continue their quartet after graduation as they perform their first Off Off Broadway production in the Lyric Theater.
Directed by Suzye Sheffield, the 1950s musical revue is a sequel to Rick Lewis’ “Taffetas,” a female revue which was performed for TCT’s 1994 dinner theater.
“It’s similar in that it’s got four people and it’s a musical revue,” Sheffield said adding that, of course, the production would be different since it was a male quartet.
“I think people will enjoy this as much as they did the Taffetas’ and maybe even more because they will recognize the music. Familiar music is always a really good draw,” Sheffield said.
The production, which is set in present town Tupelo at the Lyric Theater, features a unique harmony of 1950s tunes by Rick Hargett, the Rev. Danny Dabbs, Tommy Thompson and Larry Ray. Their song list includes favorites such as “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “In the Still of the Night,” “Mack the Knife,” “Running Bear,” and “Tears on My Pillow.” In addition, the group will perform a Christmas medley of 1950s seasonal favorites including “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Christmas Time is Here,” and “Here Comes Suzy Snowflake.”
The two-act revue features 16 songs with little dialogue. “The only dialogue is like a lead from one song to another,” Sheffield said. “There’s no character development. They’re just themselves.”
Knitting it together
Finding four guys comfortable for the closely knitted Cardigans would be a challenge in itself, but Sheffield didn’t know they would have to go against the script’s original intentions to do so.
In “The Cardigans,” the Alpha Mu Phi Pi quartet is a group of recent graduates, all four ministers’ sons, who are reuniting for a return performance. But when Sheffield arrived at auditions, she found a roomful of anything but recent college graduates. Sheffield said she had only one person audition who was exactly the right age.
Sheffield said the selection committee was more interested in a combination of sound rather than trying to cast all 20-something-year-olds, so they abandoned the original script’s intentions and went with a cast ranging from about 28 to 54 years old.
“We’ve got a variety,” she said. “But that’s the reason we picked them because of their blend.”
The director sailed over the casting hurdle only to be met by another. Unlike many TCT plays which are rehearsed over an uninterrupted six-week period, “The Cardigans'” rehearsal schedule was delayed by Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays.
“I have to admit when we first started, the idea of putting a show together in three weeks was really scary,” Sheffield said.
“They’re real dedicated,” she added. “I think they’re doing their homework and that makes all the difference.”
The quartet began practicing Jan. 4, and for the first week and half, they stood around a piano with musical director Martha Lindsey, who helped each of them find their harmony. Next, the quartet took their act to the stage where they met Sheffield for blocking and choreography. “It’s been a really intense rehearsal process,” Sheffield said, and added that because of the group’s experience and dedication, she is confident the performance will be a success.
A primary fund-raiser
The Tupelo Community Theater has been hosting dinner theaters as one of its primary fund-raisers since the 1970s.
TCT president Shawn Brevard said the dinner theater’s usually raise around $5,000,
“We try to raise the most we can raise. We don’t put a limit on it,” she said.
The money raised from the event goes toward paying the downtown theater’s operating expenses. “This is the kind of money that comes in handy,” Brevard said.
Tickets for the dinner theatre can be purchased at the Lyric Theater Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. Tickets are $10 for performance and $22 for performance and dinner. For further information, call the TCT office at 844-1935.