TAMPA — You've probably seen those infomercials with recording artists from yesteryear touting compilation CDs of ancient top 40 hits.
"If you bought all these songs separately," the former stars say, "you'd pay hundreds of dollars. Now Time-Life has put them all together in one great collection."
Watch three of those infomercials in a row and you'll have a pretty fair approximation of the Forever Plaid experience.
The passably entertaining but ridiculously popular show strings together a couple of dozen hits from the 1950s and pre-Beatles '60s, and fills the gaps in between with inane and insipid dialogue.
The latest production of Plaid at the Jaeb Theater — the sixth in 15 years — features strong vocal performances, good arrangements, charmingly low-key acting. The music is mostly very enjoyable, especially if you remember and appreciate such harmony groups as the Four Lads and the Hi-Los.
The nonmusical segments, though, can be painful. A stupid premise — a fourth-rate harmony group dies in a car crash in 1964 and for nonsensical reasons comes back to perform one last show — lays the foundation for a lot of silly and unfunny jokes, plus one long and horribly embarrassing audience participation segment.
You can't help but wish that the excellent cast (Michael Indeglio, David Purdy, Fred Ross and Dean Maroulakos) were allowed to skip the dialogue and merely harmonize, which they do beautifully. They could put together a really fun concert of such songs as Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby, No, Not Much and Perfidia.
It's a testament to the singing and the songs, that Forever Plaid ends up being pretty enjoyable despite all the cornball jokes and cheesy antics.
But buying one of those compilation CDs of '50s hits from late-night TV would give the same sort of edification without all that annoying filler. Operators are standing by.
Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at [email protected]