Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Through the power of harmony and the expanding holes in the ozone layer, Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie are allowed to come back to Earth for one night only to perform the show they never got to do in life. Delighted and scared, their nervousness once again expresses itself in the form of ulcers (Smudge), nosebleeds (Jinx), asthma (Frankie), and compulsive wise-cracking (Sparky). They bravely overcome their fears to deliver the kind of show the quartet always dreamed of doing. When they have completed their mission of harmony, the four must return to the cosmos from whence they came. But wherever they go they will be forever plaid.
Forever Plaid is a picture perfect postcard of a show that pays tribute to the most wholesome of musical memories of the late 1950s. A world filled with soda shops, sock hops, Perry Como, and the sound of clean-cut, close harmony guy groups like The Four Aces and The Four Freshmen. Accordingly, the show features songs such as "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Gotta Be This or That," "Moments to Remember," "Crazy 'Bout Ya, Baby," "No, Not Much," "Sixteen Tons," "Chain Gang," "Cry," "Heart and Soul," "Lady of Spain," "Rags to Riches," and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing."
Forever Plaid is not a cutting edge show, nor does it hold any great social commentary or tense dramatic moments. To Frankie, Jinx, Sparky and Smudge, being a "plaid" is an honorable way of thinking and behaving that is almost shamelessly sincere, sentimental, and even sweet. And that is what Forever Plaid is all about.
Though the intimate nature of this show generally lends itself best to smaller spaces than The Wick Theatre's 330 seat auditorium, this production certainly benefits from the ample set and polished lighting and projection designs. Musical accompaniment is deftly provided by pianist (and musical director) Michael Ursua and bass player Dave Wilkinson. The four actorsAlex Jorth (Frankie), Adolpho Blaire (Sparky), Charles Logan (Smudge) and Nick Endsley (Jinx)handle with admirable skill all the comic moments, choreography, transitions, novelty props, and intentionally fumbled lyrics, dance steps, and double-entendres. Surely, the frenetic energy behind their hilarious "Ed Sullivan Show" compilation makes "Lady of Spain" an audience favorite. But the stars of this show are the harmonies that are beautifully sung by the four men. They achieve an over-all solid blend and balanced sound that they maintain throughout the show regardless of the song. This is obvious even in the most difficult song, the a capella "Scotland the Brave." Director Steven Flaa's pacing is uniformly strong, as the show seems to whiz by almost too quickly.
Alex Jorth as Frankie, the leader of The Plaids, is the most relaxed and centered of the men (despite his asthma attacks). Jorth is ever engaging, especially in "Heart and Soul." Nick Endsley as Jinx, the shyest of The Plaids, had a great touch with his high notes. One might wish he were more facially expressive during the group numbers, but he delivers in his big number "Cry." Adolpho Blaire as Sparky, the jokester of the group, truly has tremendous comic ability. He lets it run rampant, however, constantly mugging for the audience and playing every moment for the laugh. It seems to drain the sincerity out of his character and pulls focus. Charles Logan is the bespectacled, Pepto-Bismol swigging Smudge. Due to his quiet character, he surprises us all when he lets loose in a suave and commanding rendition of "Rags to Riches." The guileless nature of The Plaid, the nostalgic feel of the music, and the general family appeal of this one act show may make it just what is needed to beat the summer heat with something refreshingly sweet.
In addition to Forever Plaid and its sequel Plaid Tidings, Stuart Ross is also the co-writer of the book of the Tony nominated Starmites and the Off-Broadway musicals A Leap of Faith(for Faith Prince) and Fun With Dick And Jane.
This production of Forever Plaid will be appearing at the Wick Theatre through July 24, 2016. The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum is located at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. It houses a professional, 330-seat theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors, the Broadway Collection Costume Museum, and the Wick Tavern - open for lunch or dinner. For more information you may contact them by phone at 561-955-2333, or online at www.thewick.org.
* Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage managers in the United States.