BWW Reviews: FOREVER PLAID Croons with Nostalgic Class
Four guys, forever classy wearing white dinner jackets, appear in the musical revue Forever Plaid at The Rep's Stackner Cabaret. And when Frankie, Jinx, Smudge and Spanky perform their four-part harmony in the fictional singing group, they exude slightly clueless personalities while, to the audience's delight, their musical talent exceeds expectations.
The entertaining revue's crazy, metaphysical plot places the four guys striving for their dream to be successful singers in an afterlife time warp that returns them to earth for one final concert, to strike the perfect chord. The cast strolls through the audience to the stage, like choirboys holding candlelight and chanting in Latin. Then, throughout their farewell concert, the music revisits simpler, less complicated decades while singing tributes to Perry Como or Harry Belafonte, the work of Ed Sullivan, and classic crooners form the mid-Twentieth century.
The Stackner's Forever Plaid gives a nod to ballads and swing from the 1950's crooners and pre-rock and rollers. Clever musical arrangements in this production are by Musical Continuity Supervisor and Arranger James Raitt. Originally written, directed and choreographed by Stuart Ross, the 90-minute, no intermission production flows seamlessly from Jinx's bloody nose or Smudge's ulcers that need milk of magnesia, with these props hidden behind set doors on stage that subtly light up when necessary.
These playful, nostalgic antics recall a time before birth control commercials, an era when Mr. C., the casual yet eternally classy Perry Como reigned in radio, recording and television. His unprecedented talents earned the singer three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If the under 30 set shake their heads wondering what the golden sweater might be, or confuse him with any other Perry, Forever Plaid returns Mr. C. to his rightful place in music history.
Debuting Director JC Clementz, a Rep Artistic Associate, ably commands these four incredibly gifted men: Adam Estes, Paul Helm, Nate Lewellyn and Anand Nagraj. While each actor has their moments, funny and poignant, in musical numbers, Helm's facial expressions, gestures, and stage fright as Jinx revs up the comic timing and energizes the four guys, all equally appealing. Colleen Schmidt provides the feminine heartthrob along with her prodigious talents on the keyboard, accompanying the four men on the piano.
Whether using long plungers as microphones or ketchup jars and spoons, the quartet dressed in tuxedos with proper white shirts capture a time past with genuine sincerity. Jason Orlenko's elegant Blackwatch plaid bowties and cummerbunds capture the essence of the boy bands without overplaying the plaid puns. When glittering dinner jackets appear for the final set, these men who were the endless "good guys" in school or in life, perform a scene on how to dream those big dreams regardless of what happens to create perfect harmony.
All this forever fun showcases the performers' superb four part melodies and reminisces a classical era when "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" in "Shangri-La." Where everyone gave "Heart and Soul" while someone was "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby" and made wishes with "Three Coins in the Fountain." A perfect antidote to any holiday overload, The Rep's exceptional reprise of Forever Plaid will make an audience forever glad they came for the evening.
The Milwaukee Rep presents the musical revue Forever Plaid at the Stackner Cabaret in the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex through December 29. For tickets or information, call 414.224.9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com.