BWW Reviews: Magical Arizona Onstage Productions' FOREVER PLAID
Remember this, because you'll need it later. I deeply admire the work of both Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. They are extraordinarily talented and skilled actors. In my view, Mirren has the edge, because her work looks effortless. She seems to be inhabited by the spirit of her characters. I can see Streep working, which she does brilliantly. But she ain't Mirren.
Arizona Onstage Productions' Forever Plaid is a magical, delicious pastiche, a banana split with extra hot fudge, nuts and cherries on top. It is a thinly-plotted revue of songs from the day when men's four part harmony ruled the airwaves and halls from grange to Carnegie.
Director Kevin Johnson has masterfully created a fresh, perfectly-paced staging of the show that has become a standard in the American theatre. From the moment he steps on the stage to introduce the performance, Johnson reveals himself as a quintessential theatre artist. His program notes and bio illuminate his deep background and passion for the work. It's inspiring.
William Patterson's musical direction is spot on, and the dynamics are marvelous, throughout.
The only woman in the creative team, Samantha Cormier's hand is evident at every moment. She designed the beautiful, simple set and created the energetic choreography. The guys can all move, which is essential, but they're not all dancers. Cormier's choreography makes them look even better than they are.
Staging Plaid is trickier than it looks. You need to start with four guys with exceptional voices who can blend, remember dialogue, lyrics and choreography, all while making it look easy, except when it's supposed to look hard. Johnson's cast (Daniel Gilmore, Brian Levario, Daniel Lopez and Jeremy Vega) is delightful, as are pianist, William Patterson and standup bass player, Dylan DeRobertis. It's a man-candy feast. All the singers have beautiful voices. The musicians are virtuosic. All are pretty and fun to watch.
Lopez is the youngest, and his performance is the least mature, though he is tremendously talented and one is sure he has a fabulous career ahead. He is a strong bass, and we can imagine him, like a young Jerry Orbach, stepping onto New York stages long before he hits 30.
Levario has an exquisite tenor that keeps going well into soprano territory, as boy-band arrangements demand. He is adorable. His acting skills will mature with experience, which he is sure to get a lot of, because his talent is huge.
Vega appears to be the eldest, and his lifetime of stage time is evident. He is entirely convincing at every moment, at once comfortable and engaging. Vega consummately carries the dramatic denouement of the piece, making the audience regret that the show will soon end, which is does spectacularly.
Daniel Gilmore is the Mirren of the production. There is no distance between him and his character. Every move, every moment, is organic. His talent is great, like his fellow show mens', but Gilmore has that extra something - that quality that elevates a performer and transcends the confines of the work. Though this critic resisted, her eye was continually drawn back to Gilmore's expressive face and fluid movement. He is a genuine triple threat.
Forever Plaid runs at the Temple of Music and Art's cabaret space through the 19th. Highly recommended. Details: arizonaonstage.org