Friday, February 23, 2018
Stage

'Forever Plaid' is an oldie, mostly goodie at Show Palace

Review | Forever Plaid

If you've never seen the musical comedy Forever Plaid, you might want to see the production playing through Aug. 24 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre.

The players are adequate, the story simple and cute, and the music — songs like Moments to Remember, Heart and Soul and Perfidia from the 1950s and '60s, with their tight harmonies, pleasant melodies and sweet lyrics — is hard to beat.

On the other hand, if you're a Forever Plaid repeater, not so much. This area (including the Show Palace) has had much sharper versions, and you may be a tad disappointed with the current offering.

That's not to say there aren't enough really good moments to please even a 10-timer like me. When the four singers do their close harmonies or break out with some seemingly unintentional physical comedy, the whole becomes a lot better than its parts.

The slight story that strings together those classics is that four high school guys who sang together in the style of the Four Aces and Four Freshmen back in 1964 are killed on their way to their first big gig and have been given a chance to come back to earth to perform the show that they intended to do back then, never mind that their style of singing isn't all the rage today.

Nick Rishel as Jinx, the shy guy with a recurrent nosebleed, is a real crowd-pleaser with his emotional version of the Johnnie Ray classic Cry and crooner Perry Como's signature Catch a Falling Star. Rishel's clear voice and earnest demeanor do both the songs and their originators justice.

Dick Baker makes a fine Frankie, the group's putative heartthrob, while Matty Colonna is a sometimes over-frenzied Sparky, the group's clown. The point of the Plaids singing group is that they're not Elvis and they're not the Beatles, so hip wiggles and/or intentional physical antics seem out of place. The group is at its best when the members "accidentally" do a pratfall or collide and seem genuinely embarrassed about it.

Brendan Cataldo's program bio indicates his forte is acting, and although his pitch is usually right on, he's not the big bass that songs like Sixteen Tons needs; nor does he have the vocal range to really nail some others. He's best when joined by the other fellows, and he physically fits the Smudge role.

Director Steven Flaa has either performed in the show or directed it numerous times, and it may be his desire to add some variation. He does, wisely, do the show in one 90-minute act (as it was originally written), so the momentum isn't broken. Accompanists Bill Cusick on piano and Irv Goldberg on bass do a splendid job. Tom Hansen's stage design is uncomplicated, putting the focus on the performers, where it must be.

Forever Plaid is a good summer's day diversion that's suitable for all ages, with music that appeals to those who grew up with it and accessible to those hearing it for the first time.

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