Equipped with a catalog of familiar tunes and the indelible spirit of yesteryear, the eternal charm of Forever Plaid shines in a delightful new production at Montgomery Theater. Under the direction and choreography of Stephen Casey, the classic doo-wops and shoo-be-doos aren’t all that give this production its lovely vintage glow.
Decked in plaid cummerbunds and bow ties, “The Plaids” improbably arrive on the stage from the afterlife. As the story goes, one stormy night decades ago, the close-harmony boy group fell victim to a fatal car accident en route to their first real gig. More than fifty years later they find themselves back on the stage, from the great beyond, with a chance to put the act together one final and fated time before ascending once again. Their lineup includes familiar tunes such as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Catch a Falling Star,” and “Heart and Soul,” along with a cornucopia of others, covering everything from comedic chaos to heartfelt young love.
With each member of the group still in their prime, the inherent youthfulness is invigorating. What Casey understands most about the cast is their ability to charm an audience. The structure is packed with music, but The Plaids are able to take their time between tunes, giving the Montgomery’s intimate space an even more congenial feeling.
Although their bright, tightly-packed harmonies make them sound like pros, The Plaids are a ragtag bunch of characters. Of the quartet, Frankie (Carl Nathaniel Smith) takes on the leadership role between asthma attacks, with Smudge (Craig O’Brien) providing a good bit of bespectacled goofy comic relief and an admirably deep bass feature in “Sixteen Tons.” Sparky (Connor McAndrews) brings a wonderfully dry humor to the group, while Jinx (Mike Dorsey) delivers a crisp boyish charm, in spite of being prone to nosebleeds, while beautifully sailing through the high notes.
Casey’s relationship to dance also gives the musicality an extra pop. The simple night-club style space is sparse except for a few microphones and Musical Director John Lehr Opfar at the keyboard. John Hobbie’s scenic design, along with Lily Fossner’s lighting, is simple throughout the act, but sparkles when necessary as the musical numbers shift in tone. Linda B. Stockton’s costumes set the quartet perfectly in their quintessential white dinner jackets, with a surprise extra flair when they reach the finale.
The rest is filled with toe-tapping, finger-snapping and all the classic doo-wop moves you’d expect, and with a showy twist. And while the vintage feeling of a decades-old group planted in 2016 will be welcoming to most, the content does over-date itself at times. At the end of the day, good music is good music, but if you’re of an era where you’ve never seen The Ed Sullivan show, there may be some lost jokes.
Regardless of your age, The Plaids will give you something to laugh about with their hijinks and pure affection for four-part harmony. A love letter to music from a golden age, Forever Plaid mixes the charm of vintage favorites with the zaniness of live performance for a bright and bubbly trip to the not so distant past.
Running Time: About two hours, with an intermission.