Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Forever Plaid
Great Lakes Theater
Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's review of Mary Poppins


The Cast
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
Forever Plaid gives the audience a delightful evening in the theater. In the Great Lakes Theater production, the talented company delivers 90 minutes of music and humor, and a few moments of serious introspection on life, death, and reaching your goals.

The story is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The boy groups were at the top of their popularity—think of The Lettermen, The Four Tops, the Four Freshmen, The Four Aces, The Four Lads, and The Moonglows. Just a few years later and across the pond think of the Beatles, as the genre evolved.

The Plaids were killed in a car crash with a bus full of Catholic girls. The Plaids were on their way to play their dream gig, 28 songs from the 1950s and early 1960s. Somehow the Plaids are resurrected and get to do their show—and what a neat show it is.

This is a tight company of players. The singers are Mack Shirilla (Francis), Andrew Kotzen (Sparky), Mickey Patrick Ryan (Jinx) and James Penca (Smudge). Matthew Webb (conductor/piano) and Timothy Powell (bass) are the instrumentalists accompanying the singers.

The 28 songs in the show include many of the hits from 1950-1960—"Heart and Soul," "Lady of Spain," "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing," "Magic Moments," "Matilda," "Moments to Remember," "Rags to Riches," "She Loves You," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and more.

This program features several opportunities for the Plaids to bring audience members to the stage to join in the show. This is typical of the concerts of the era of the Plaids. One of the most interesting sections is a three minute plus take-off of the Sunday night "Ed Sullivan Show." One of the Plaids sings "Lady of Spain" while the other three imitate the Singing Nun, dogs jumping through hoops, ballet dancers, and many of the other performers we saw on the Sullivan show.

The four men who play the Plaids are everything we could want in a boy group. They sing and blend well and they evoke memories of that by-gone era. All four are charming and do comic turns as they sing and during the interludes between the songs. The men wear white dinner jackets through most of the show. But, toward the end, show their plaid dinner jackets are delivered to them and they finally became The Plaids.

Gregory Daniels (choreographer) has the four men dancing and stepping in the style of the boy groups. I noted not an error in their steps. Victoria Bussert (director) does a superb job directing this memory-evoking musical. The men who play the Plaids are out of the Baldwin-Wallace musical theater program, which Bussert leads.

Forever Plaid runs through May 21, 2017, in the Hanna Theatre as part of the Great Lakes Theater's season. For tickets and information, call 216-241-6000 or visit GreatLakesTheater.org. The Great Lakes Theater fall season will include the musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, (September 29 through November 4, 2017) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (October 6 through November 5, 2017).

Written and Originally Directed and Choreographed by: Stuart Ross
Musical Continuity Supervision and Arrangement: James Raitt
Francis: Mack Shirilla
Sparky: Andrew Kotzen
Jinx Mickey Patrick Ryan
Smudge: James Penca
Conductor/ Piano: Matthew Webb
Bass: Timothy Powell
Choreography: Gregory Daniels
Music Director: Matthew Webb
Scenic Designer: Jeff Herrmann
Sound Designer: David Gotwald
Lighting Designer: Mary Jo Dondlinger
Director: Victoria Bussert


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