BWW Reviews: FOREVER PLAID Harmonizes in Musical Trip Down Memory Lane
Performing on a linoleum checkered floor and sporting fashions straight out of a 1950s magazine, the boys of CATCO's latest show, "Forever Plaid," take audiences on a nostalgic journey back to the golden age of close-harmony quartets in this light-hearted musical revue.
Written by Stuart Ross and featuring musical arrangements by James Raitt, "Forever Plaid" originally debuted off-Broadway in 1990 and has since gained international popularity with the release of a motion picture of the same name in 2009.
The play takes place in the aftermath of a tragic traffic accident. On the way to their first big show, four young, ambitious singers--who proudly call themselves The Plaids--are killed when their car collides with a school bus.
Flash forward to present day, where the group is reunited in death, miraculously given a second chance to perform the show they had always dreamed of, but never actually experienced while among the living.
Climbing up onto the stage, dressed in white tuxedo jackets with a surprisingly conservative amount of plaid, the group initially struggles to understand their current situation. Adjusting to the culture shock of 21st century life while trying to come to terms with the reality of their deaths, The Plaids ultimately decide to embrace the opportunity they have been given and prepare to perform the set they initially planned to play on that fateful night.
The Plaids' set is a jukebox of classic tunes that takes the audience on a trip down memory lane. Featuring covers of songs ranging from "Chain Gang" to "Heart and Soul," "Forever Plaid" takes advantage of the musical versatility of a quartet and the comic absurdity of the play's plot.
Ben Hartwig, William Macke, Cody Shope and Zachary M. Pytel fully embrace the characters of Smudge, Jinx, Sparky and Frankie, respectively. Together, along with pianist Quinton Jones and Andrew Festa on upright bass, The Plaids create a lovably awkward group with which audiences can't help but be enamored.
Similar to The Plaids' unexpected revival, this production of "Forever Plaid" has also been resurrected and redesigned by Director and Music Director Matt Clemens, drawing upon the success of CATCO's first staging of "Forever Plaid" in 1997.
The new, more intimate venue of the Riffe Center's Studio Three Theater is a perfect match for this kind of cabaret-style production. The close proximity of the stage encourages increased interaction between the actors and the audience, and allows for the full appreciation of the care and thought put into defining the traits and unique quirks of each character.
From the quivering hands and voices of The Plaids as they first step into the spotlight to the shadow puppets Sparky throws up on the wall during the group's nod to Calypso music, it is the inclusion of these small, well-calculated details that takes this performance from a light-hearted medley of beloved tunes to a emotionally-endearing story. By the end of the production, audience members will happily accept their status as "honorary Plaids," and wholeheartedly cheer on Smudge, Jinx, Sparky and Frankie as they discover the self-confidence necessary to fulfill their lifelong dreams.
"Forever Plaid" is a lively two-hour performance that captures the audience's attention and pulls viewers into a supernatural world where dreams are realized and anything can happen.
CATCO's production of "Forever Plaid" is scheduled to run through Nov. 9.
Tickets may be purchased at www.catcoistheater.org or via phone at (614) 269-0939.
The Riffe Center's Studio Three Theater is located at 77 S. High St.
Photo Credit: Ben Sostrom