Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
The revue tells the story of a fictional boy band of the early 1960s. Forever Plaid is the name of the group, and the boys refer to themselves as "Plaids." Frankie, Smudge, Jinx, and Sparky met in high school (in the AV club, no less, further reinforcing their square cred), and discovered a shared love of music from groups like The Four Freshmenand the ability to skillfully blend their voices within the range of a single octave.
The four gents playing the Plaids in this production are also skilled in the art of making tight harmonies sound tight, not dissonanta challenging task they pull off with aplomb. Occasionally, a note is half a step lower than where it seems it ought to be, but for the vast majority of the performance, Jake Druzgala, Joseph Favalora, Trevor Sakai-Jolivette, and Eric Weiss deliver the harmonic goods with great aplomb.
They are backed by a piano ably manned by Nathan Riebli, and bass, with Paul Coker also excellentjust enough to set the key and keep the rhythm, allowing the four voices to be front and center where they belong.
The songs are mostly familiar pop hits from the 1940s and '50s: "3 Coins in the Fountain," "16 Tons," "Catch a Falling Star," "Lady of Spain," "Heart and Soul," and over a dozen more.
The main problem with Forever Plaid is with the book. The setup is funny in an absurdly wry way. En route to their first big gig, the Mercury in which the four Plaids were riding was broadsided by a bus of Catholic school girls on their way to see The Beatles perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show." The boys are killed instantly, but since they were rehearsing and the accident happened in the middle of an unresolved chord, the Plaids are stuck in an astral way station: dead but not fully transitioned into the afterlife. After that, there is very little narrative motivation. Though there are a handful of funny lines scattered throughout, the story seems as unable to move on as the poor dead Plaids. (Though the physical business and impressions in recreating "The Ed Sullivan Show" is ably done.)
The music is delightful, and the choreography of Joseph Favalora (doing double duty as choreographer and key player) is terrific: always showing us new ways four guys can interact with each other, four microphone stands, and a handful of other props. (Attention Broadway producersthis guy is a real talent. Scoop him up, but let him work in the Bay Area at least a couple of times a year.)
Forever Plaid runs through July 17, 2016, in the G.K. Hardt Theater at the 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. (Saturday matinees on July 9 and 16). Tickets are $37 general admission, $32 seniors and youth Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday matinees, and $30 general, $25 for seniors and youth on Thursdays and Saturday matinees. Tickets are available online at www.6thStreetPlayhouse.com, by calling the box office at (707) 523-4185 or during open Box Office hours.