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'Plaid Tidings' heavenly quartet sets the mood

Audiences will swoon for Broadway Rose's holiday revue


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - The youngest Plaid, Jinx, is played by Robert Head, with his backup brothers behind him (from left) Sean Powell, Jeremy Sloan and Matthew Brown. Along with such great singing groups as the Righteous Brothers, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles that all started in the 1960s, there was The Plaids.

The who?

The Plaids is a fictional group of four young men on their way to the big time in the 1960s as the plot unfolds in the upcoming Broadway Rose show, “Plaid Tidings.” Unfortunately, the harmonious quartet meets an untimely death on the way to its first big show but is called back to Earth by none other than Rosemary Clooney for a posthumous performance.

Clooney tells the heavenly quartet it is needed to put a little holiday harmony into a discordant world.

The show includes ’50s and ’60s holiday musical favorites, a riotous version of “The Ed Sullivan Show” featuring the Rockettes, the Chipmunks and the Vienna Boys Choir, and a unique Plaid Caribbean Christmas that puts the “Day-O” in Excels is!

Just like the fictional Plaids, the Broadway Rose quartet is composed of four unique young men who just love to perform.

Matthew Brown (Sparky)

Matthew Brown, 24, is a 2007 graduate of Southridge High School who is in his fifth Broadway Rose production. His very first stage performance was in “The Hobbit” when he was in the sixth grade at Highland Park Middle School.

Brown credits his sister with getting him into theater in high school, where he remembers “the show that got me to fall in love with theater and want to make it a career was ‘West Side Story.’”

The good news was that Wade Willis, a longtime Broadway Rose performer, was the Southridge drama teacher and director. “He wasn’t afraid to let high school students tackle serious stuff like ‘West Side Story,’” Brown said.

The bad news was Willis left at the beginning of Brown’s senior year, but he learned that working under a different director was actually a growing experience.

“I originally thought I wanted to teach high school drama,” said Brown, who attended Portland State University for a while. “But then I decided I wanted to learn as much as I could by performing.”

Ironically, although he is one leg of a quartet in this show, Brown did not sing in high school except as part of an ensemble.

“So I started taking singing lessons and doing auditions,” he said. “I wanted to try new roles I hadn’t done before.”

Brown auditioned for “Plaid Tidings” last March, noting, “I wasn’t expecting to get called back. It was an honor to be called back. I worked very hard on the call-back. I’m bad at auditioning, but I had a good feeling about this one.

“I did another show called ‘Altar Boys’ with four or five guys, and we developed a brotherly camaraderie, which attracted me to this show.”

For his day job, Brown has worked at Little Big Burger in North Portland for a couple of years and has an understanding boss who is willing to let him work around his theater schedule. “I feel really lucky,” Brown said.

But his first love is the stage: “Every time you audition, you have to tell a story,” Brown said. “You have to lose yourself in a character. I feel at home on the stage, and the audience has so much fun. I love the Portland theater community — everyone is close.”

Jeremy Sloan (Frankie)

Jeremy Sloan is almost a native Oregonian, born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and moving to Salem with his family when he was 8 years old. He immediately made music a big part of his life, singing in the Salem Boys Choir from age 8 to 13 and performing in musicals in high school.

At Portland State University, Sloan got a bachelor of arts degree in music and then went back and got a second degree in theater.

For his day job, Sloan, 33, is part of Portland Public Schools’ autism team, training para-educators to work with students in the autism spectrum.

“It’s a pretty fun job,” he said. “When I was in high school taking a psychology class, my mom had a similar job, and I job-shadowed her. And I’ve had special training since.”

He likes the job “because it is Monday through Friday, it provides a steady income, and I get summers off.

“I originally was going to get my high school teaching certification, but there were no jobs, so I got my second degree in theater. Now I’m debating whether to get a master’s degree in special education. There are more children in the autism spectrum than ever.”

On the theatrical side, Sloan has appeared in several Broadway Rose productions along with those of other metro-area theater companies.

After appearing in the Broadway Rose’s “My Fair Lady” last summer, he took a break from theater this fall.

“I’ve pretty much done one show after another, and they have pretty much been musicals,” said Sloan, adding that he has appeared in 30-plus shows plus four operas or operettas and a couple of TV shows.

“I love being on the stage, and I love performing and putting on someone else’s shoes,” he said. “I love to dance, and I love the feeling you get from an audience.”

Would Sloan ever leave Portland for the Great White Way? “There is always that bug in my ear, but I’m pretty happy where I am right now,” he said.by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Making up The Plaids are Matthew Brown as Sparky, Jeremy Sloan as Frankie, Sean Powell as Smudge and Robert Head as Jinx.

Sean Powell (Smudge)

Sean Powell was born in England but moved with his family to Beaverton when he was 5 years old. He graduated from Westview High School, where he performed in musicals.

He majored in theater at New York University but also enjoyed a semester in England, where he performed Shakespeare.

“I thought I should pursue musical theater after graduating, and I planned to spend one summer in Portland and then head back to New York,” said Powell, noting that his plan didn’t quite work out.

He auditioned for the Broadway Rose production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in October 2010, got cast as one of the brothers, and stayed in Portland.

“‘Joseph’ was my first show after college, and it was such a good introduction to Portland theater,” said Powell, 25. “It took one year after New York to fall in love with Portland and the theater scene, and at this point, I don’t see myself moving back to New York.”

He has previously performed with two of his “Plaid Tidings” co-stars, Jeremy Sloan and Robert Head, which made the camaraderie among the “Plaid Tidings” quartet members almost instantaneous.

Powell’s day job is teaching at a pre-school at the Cedar Hills Recreation Center, which is part of the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District.

“I grew up going to that rec center doing gymnastics,” Powell said. “A friend got me an interview, and I got the job. This is my second year, and I just fell in love with it and have gotten ongoing training. It’s funny how theater people can do anything we try — we have adaptable skills.”

Another project near and dear to Powell is participating as a mentee in the Third Rail Repertory Theatre’s year-long mentorship program, where mentees take acting classes and help run events.

“The mentors are all company members and want to foster young talent,” he added. “We learn about the behind-the-scenes jobs, and in June, we will put on a full production. Hopefully, one day I will make a living in the theater.”

Powell’s résumé to date looks good after having performed in several Broadway Rose shows along with those of other companies.

“I’ve also taken a few breaks,” Powell said. “It’s about finding a balance. I love being part of a story, and theater is storytelling. To do a show I’m passionate about and can escape for a while when working with friends is ideal. And I like learning more about myself.”

Robert Head (Jinx)

The youngest of the quartet is Robert Head, who although only 20 still has accumulated quite a résumé that includes several Broadway Rose shows and productions in other Portland-area companies.

Growing up in Vancouver, Wash., Head was homeschooled and graduated from both high school and Clark College in 2011 through a joint program that allows high school students to earn college credits.

He took piano and voice lessons growing up and has been involved in theater from a young age, performing along with his siblings for Christian Youth Theatre (now called Journey Theater). Head noted that he was still in high school when he was part of the cast of the Broadway Rose production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in 2011.

“I did some sports but then found theater,” Head said. “I’ve done three or four shows a year since I was in high school. I was thinking about transferring to a four-year university, but then I got a role in Broadway Rose’s ‘Hairspray’ and kept doing theater.”

Besides sharing his talents with audiences, Head shares them with 15 students, teaching private voice and piano lessons at Foster Studios.

“I teach voice for my old voice teacher, and I still take voice and piano lessons,” he added. “I may even play the piano in ‘Plaid Tidings.’”

Head also has done choreography for Broadway Rose, West Linn High School and Journey Theater.

“People helped me learn choreography, and I did substitute-teaching at a dance studio in Vancouver,” he said. “I choreographed ‘Snow White’ and ‘Jungle Book’ for Broadway Rose.

“I have found that if you challenge kids, they will step up to the plate. I almost get more gratification out of teaching than I do being on the stage.”

Head has not given up on going back to school and getting his bachelor’s degree — possibly next fall — but what will he do if another great role comes along? “I love everything about the theater — the community aspect of it,” he said. “Everyone works together, and each person is so important. I like combing all the elements in musical theater, and I love working at Broadway Rose.”

He praised Sharon Maroney, producing artistic director, and Dan Murphy, general manager, saying, “Dan and Sharon are so great, and I am so thankful for the opportunities they have given me. When I auditioned for ‘Joseph,’ it was my first role not related to school. I played the youngest brother, and if I had not done that show, I would be in a different spot in my life. I met Sean (Powell) in that show, and we are still close friends.

“And ‘Hairspray’ was my second professional show. I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - The Plaids know their way around a song, as demonstrated by (from left) Sean Powell, Jeremy Sloan, Matthew Brown and Robert Head

Enjoy the show

The Broadway Rose Theatre Company continues its 2013 season of memories with the holiday musical revue, “Plaid Tidings,” playing at the Broadway Rose New Stage.

Preview performance is Wednesday, Nov. 27, with opening night Friday, Nov. 29, and performances continue through Dec. 22. Evening performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sundays, and on the following Saturdays: Dec. 7, 14 and 21.

The New Stage is located at 12850 S.W. Grant Ave. in Tigard. Ticket prices start at $30 for adults, with discounts available for groups and youth.

The production was written by Stuart Ross and is directed and choreographed by Dan Murphy with musical direction by Jeffery Childs. Singing the crystalline harmonies are Jeremy Sloan, Matthew Brown, Robert Head and Sean Powell.

For a full listing of show performances or to order tickets, visit broadwayrose.org or call the box office at 503-620-5262.




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