BWW Review: FOREVER PLAID is a Joyous Blast From the Past

FOREVER PLAID, a musical revue written by Stuart Ross in 1990 has been performed internationally. The show is about those close-harmony groups like The Four Aces and The Four Freshmen that were popular during the 50s. These groups personified the clean-cut genre. The Plaids are a quartet of high-school friends with dreams of recording an album who come to their untimely end in a collision with a bus filled with Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles' American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Plaids have been given a final chance from the afterlife for musical glory.

The songs they sing include such pop standards as: "Three Coins in the Fountain"; "Undecided"; "Gotta Be This or That"; "Moments to Remember"; "Crazy 'Bout Ya, Baby"; "No, Not Much"; "Sixteen Tons"; "Chain Gang"; "Perfidia"; "Cry"; "Heart and Soul"; "Shangri-La"; "Rags to Riches"; and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing". All in all, 28 songs from the juke-box era are featured.

The show really doesn't have much of a plot. What makes this show work is the four actors with golden voices that create magic when they harmonize. They quickly establish their characters as individuals but also harmonize perfectly together.

Frankie (Daniel Cline) is the leader of the group and the connection between the audience and the guys. He has great passion for the music and the group. He also has asthma, which acts up when the choreography gets too frenetic. Sparky (Scott Garrett Graham) is funny, energetic and clever. He cares for his shy stepbrother, Jinx (Travis Martin). Jinx gets a nose bleed when he sings above an A. And finally, there's Smudge (Matt Gauck) who worries about what number comes next and that the audience won't like him.

There's really no way to single out these performers because they work together like a well oiled machine. They invest these characters with a charm and an earnestness that is refreshing. It is also totally believable that they are from another, kinder, gentler, sweeter time. But make no mistake, these are not caricatures. These actors inhabit these souls from another time.

Barbara Schuler has done a first rate job directing this show and it has some truly inspired moments. In particular, the Plaids performing the Ed Sullivan Show in just over three minutes will have you in tears of laughter. Likewise, David Blackburn's musical direction is spot on and we are given an evening of glorious harmony. Cathie Sheridan's choreography is absolutely brilliant, nailing the highly stylized art of this period... and there is a moment with toilet plungers that is pre-STOMP stage magic. James Jennings lighting design and Jim Schuler's set design are excellent as well. And, in a category a reviewer doesn't usually get to mention, Julia Phipps has managed to secure some vintage props that will bring back a flood of memories to baby boomers.

With no shortage of humorous, sweet and touching moments, FOREVER PLAID is a nostalgic look back at the music and events from fifty years ago. The show will seriously jog the memories of those who grew up during the time period. However, even if you didn't grow up in that time period, or aren't familiar with the songs, you will most likely still have a great time, as the show is very funny.

FOREVER PLAID is a sweet and charming trip down memory lane with four lads that vocalize together beautifully, fun direction and imaginative choreography. Austin Theatre Project's production of the show is a winner

FOREVER PLAID Book by Stuart Ross

Running time: Two Hours with one intermission

FOREVER PLAID, produced by Austin Theatre Project, at Ground Floor Theatre (979 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX 78702) August 14-29, 2015. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Saturday, Aug. 22 at 2 PM. Sundays at 3 PM. Tickets: http://www.austintheatreproject.org


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From This Author Frank Benge