Friday, May 17, 2024

Theater Review: “Forever Plaid” at the Wick

“Forever Plaid” begins with an ominous narrator, who recounts the story of four singers suffering a deadly car crash before a concert. This is accompanied by a piercing sound effect and a flash of lightning. The four men, or the “Plaids,” walk onstage from the aisles carrying candles and looking like picture-perfect barbershop quartet angels: white jackets, patent leather dress shoes and plaid bowties.

These 1950s crooners—Sparky (Adolpho Blaire), Smudge (Charles Logan), Jinx (Nick Endsley) and Frankie (Alex Jorth)—meet their deaths in the car crash just before they are about to carry out their dream of singing in concert. While this sounds morbid, the show is far from it. The quartet comes back to Earth 52 years later (upon arriving to the stage, Sparky asks an audience member what year it is) in order to carry out its dream of performing onstage. However, throughout the musical the four men do not just sing and dance; they crack jokes, address the audience and embarrassingly mess up the choreography. Their clumsiness creates a loveable quality to the group and will make you laugh throughout the musical.

This is director-choreographer Steven Flaa’s 15th production of “Forever Plaid,” and it shows in the quality of the performances. While the stage is minimal, with only a band featuring a pianist, cellist and drummer situated in the back and four microphones and two stools downstage, the flamboyant cast and beautiful harmony steals the show. Flaa’s perfectly imperfect choreography and witty jokes make the actors feel like your friends. It’s as if you’re watching them from your living room rather than an impersonal concert hall.

The Plaids sing 18 songs over the course of the musical, and they all make you feel like you are at a 1950s prom—in a good way, of course. Starting with their opening number, “Three Coins in the Fountain,” the Plaids’ dancing is synchronized and deliberate. The synchronicity could have felt robotic and harsh, but under Flaa’s direction it’s charming. While many times they mess up (deliberately), you can tell the Plaids are clumsy because they care very much about their first big performance, making the musical all the more delightful.

The musical is interactive and personal. The Plaids bring out props to accompany certain songs, and the audience gets to watch and even hold some of them. During “Caribbean Plaid,” Sparky and Jinx give a pole decorated with bananas, peppers and colorful lights to audience members to hold. During “Heart and Soul,” an audience member is escorted onstage to play the top part of the piano for the Plaids. At the end of “Shangri-La,” bubbles fall from the ceiling and onto the audience.

While the musical concerns the Plaids as a group, Flaa allows each vocalist to let his personality shine through. Each Plaid shares a few anecdotes about his time on Earth and how he became a Plaid. Each of them also gets to sing his own solo. Sparky, the bodacious and flamboyant member of the group, sings “Perfidia” and dedicates it to his old Spanish neighbor. It is accompanied by exuberant dance moves. Nick Endsley’s Jinx, the introvert of the group, sings his solo “Cry” softly until he gains enough confidence during the chorus to flawlessly belt the rest of the song. As Smudge, the singer who takes his position very seriously but lets clumsiness get in the way, Charles Logan has a deep and strong baritone. His masculine voice and goofy behavior perfectly complements his solo “Chain Gang,” which he sings while tapping a silver spoon to a ketchup bottle. The frontman, Frankie, ties the entire group together. He is the most confident in himself and the Plaids as a whole.

The actors do a phenomenal job in creating personal and hilarious characters. They are able to make a relic of the past feel relevant and new. The well-curated song choices are carried out with such emotion and enthusiasm that these Plaids deserve to be around forever.

“Forever Plaid” runs through July 24 at the Wick, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $55. Call 561/995-2333 or visit thewick.org.

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