Nov. 16--"The bass fiddle is a classic in classy instruments," said jazz musician David Hawkins, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Plainview. "There's just something that's immediately cool about a string bass. The sound, the warmth, the depth can't be replicated by electric instruments."
The "vibe" of a string bass seemed perfect for "Forever Plaid," a musical to be presented by Plainview High School at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 21, 22 and 23, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Fair Theatre on Broadway.
The show's premise -- that four spirits return from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory -- is a perfect excuse to revive timeless classics such as "Sixteen Tons," "Chain Gang," "Heart and Soul," and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing."
Instrumentation for the show called for a string bass. Problem was that nobody had one, and nobody knew how to play one.
Except for David Hawkins.
Hawkins holds a degree in piano performance and spent much of his life as a professional musician, including time in the army as a jazz pianist, before he attended seminary.
Hawkins set out on a quest to find a bass fiddle and learned from Lee Naron, president of PHS Band Boosters, that there might be one in the band hall attic. Hawkins received permission from band director Anthony Gonzalez to look, and the instrument was found -- on top of some lockers under about three inches of dust.
"The bridge was collapsed, the gears were all disassembled and the strings were all missing," Hawkins said. There was, however, a package of unopened strings beside the instrument. Hawkins took it home, reassembled and restrung it. His son Wiley, who plays electric bass and tuba, was a willing pupil, especially since Hawkins' father, Wiley's grandfather, plays the bass.
Wiley and the bass fiddle are part of the instrumentation, which also includes a piano and a small trap set played by Alex Beasley, for the "Forever Plaid" production.
Sally Bass is musical director of the show, and Walter Wright directs the singers. The quartet members that auditioned and won parts in the show are experienced singers, members of A Cappella choir. They are Robby Riley, Jacob Richburg, Chris Ontai and Aaron Chavez.
Highlights of the evening include a tribute to the Ed Sullivan Show and another to the quartet's hero Perry Como, Wright said.
Show director Jennifer Riley is also the mother of cast member Robby Riley. Directing her son in a musical production brings back memories for her.
"I played Frenchy in a production of 'Grease' 20 years ago at Plainview High School," she recalls.
An English teacher at PHS for many years, Riley said a small-cast production was ideal for her directing debut. The play itself, she says, is both difficult and challenging. "High schools never do it. Until now," she said.
Working with the cast has been a marvelous experience for her, she said. "They love the music. It gets a huge response from younger generations. The things that made it wonderful then make it wonderful now,"
Beyond the music, Riley said, the play is "funny. It's a very funny piece."
Riley said she decided to use the Fair Theatre for its "timelessness and intimacy. It's perfect for this -- too perfect not to use it. And the Fair has been wonderful to work with us."
The theater box office will open at 6:30 p.m. each evening with the show to follow at 7:30. The Saturday afternoon matinee will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 23, with the box office opening an hour early for ticket sales.
Tickets, priced at $6 for students and $10 for adults, may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 806-296-3367. For additional information, patrons may contact the theater manager at 806-296-1139.
The production is made possible through special arrangement with Musical Theatre International.
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