Sarah Steinberg, Weekend
GLENDALE -- "Forever Plaid" at Glendale Centre Theatre is utterly
captivating and keeps the feet tapping to a terrific musical score,
including classic standards such as Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang."
The songs showcase the phenomenal vocal talents of the actors who make
up the Plaids, a musical quartet formed in the late 1950s that takes us
on a journey circa 1964.
The group, which met in the high school audio/visual club, has died
after its car is broadsided by a school bus on the way to pick up plaid
tuxedoes. Watching them play off the notion that the show must go on,
despite the fact that they are dead, is pure entertainment.
While the set is just a stage for the two musicians and four singers,
it takes us back to 1964 with a shiny backdrop that changes colors by the
lighting. The royal blue stage with white stars sets the tone.
An amusing special effect during "The Plaids Go Calypso Day-O" is an
illuminated palm tree with a glowing trunk that rises from the ground.
Backup musicians are the beret-wearing bass player Uncle Chester,
played by Timothy Emmons, and Steven Applegate, the musical director, the
piano accompanist. Since the setting is so intimate with the same six
people on stage throughout the show, it would be nice if there was more
interaction between the musicians and the quartet. Emmons and Applegate
are crucial members of the show and for the most part just stand there.
High praise, however, goes to all members of the quartet. Kurt
Cereske, in the role of Sparky, has a strong stage presence and voice. He
upstages the others "Sixteen Tons" when he blows into a tube connected to
a small organ to play the instrument.
Jinx, portrayed by Daniel Thomas, is a poised actor with an impressive
vocal range. He can sing a lovely falsetto and then switch back to alto.
We see how multitalented he is when he plays the accordion on "Lady of
Smudge, played by Danny Michaels, is outstanding. He has a sweet
quality and easily transforms into a comedian, particularly during
"Sixteen Tons." He is also an incredibly talented singer and wins us over
during "Lady of Spain" with a fire-eating trick.
Alex Camp as Frankie adds to the dynamic group. His innocence allows
us to believe we are back in a simpler time. Camp can sing with the best
of 'em and does so ably in all the songs, particularly "Chain Gang."
While separately talented, it is their cooperative effort that adds
the magic to this show. The number "Matilda" is the most animated number
as the Plaids venture into the audience, shaking maracas and banging on
"The Lady of Spain" by far the most humorous piece, as the men portray
various acts from "The Ed Sullivan Show." The Plaids add humor to the
dance number "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby" by carrying long-handled toilet
plungers instead of the usual canes.
This musical is delicious. It's living proof community theater can
create a professional level of musical theater.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: "Forever Plaid."
WHERE: Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays through April 25.