Forever Plaid

Beck Center for the Arts
Professional Theatre                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Forever Plaid is an off-Broadway musical revue written in New York in 1990. Musical arrangements, vocal arrangements and musical direction were by James Raitt; the show was written, directed, and choreographed by Stuart Ross. The show is a revue of the close-harmony “guy groups” (e.g. The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen) that reached the height of their popularity during the 1950s. Personifying the clean-cut genre are The Plaids. This quartet of high-school chums’ dreams of recording an album ended in death, in a collision with a bus filled with Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles’ American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. The play begins with the Plaids returning from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory.

The playlist for this jukebox musical includes great classic songs such as: “Three Coins in the Fountain”; “Undecided”; “Gotta Be This or That”; “Moments to Remember”; “Crazy ‘Bout Ya, Baby”; “No, Not Much”; “Sixteen Tons”; “Chain Gang”; “Perfidia”; “Cry”; “Heart and Soul”; “Lady of Spain”; “Scotland the Brave”; “Shangri-La”; “Rags to Riches”; and “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”.

Directed and Choreographed by Martin Cespedes, The Beck Center for the Arts cast includes Josh Rhett Noble* (Sparky); Matthew Ryan Thompson (Jinx); Brian Altman (Smudge); and making his Beck Center debut, Shane O’Neill (Frankie). Musical Direction provided by Bryan Bird. His band included Bill Hart on Drums, and Kevin Aylward on Bass.

I couldn’t imagine being a maitre d’, and looking down at your reservation book and seeing that Noble, Thompson, Altman, and O’Neill had booked a table for the evening. That is one fantastic talented hot mess of a table. Well, the Beck Center is serving up that combo for all to see, and the result is a vocal delight. Each one of these performers is a delight in their own respect. So, seeing them inhabit the Plaids on Preview night was a scream. Everyone gets their turn in the spotlight, and each brings their comedic gifts to the party. Leading the comic parade is Noble. He is just hilarious in every situation, and has a set of hips that deserves a curtain call. He was on the top of my laugh list. Thompson uses his innocent, shy routine to fierce delight. In a bizarre way, some of his delivery reminds me of Mary Katherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live fame. Altman brings his supreme charm to the proceedings. His rich voice adds substance to the vocals, and give this man a spoon and a ketchup bottle, and magic ensues. Beck Center audiences have their first chance to fall head over heels for O’Neill. Blessed with an angelic voice and face, he croons like a matinee idol. Truly a gift to the proceedings. And the best part, is each one of them is talented singer, and their blend is to die for. See what I did there?

This production is just a whole lot of damn cuteness and feel good vocalizations. The fellows have their work cut out for them with the challenging choreography. It is obvious the drill work these four must have went through to nail the execution of never-ending tweaks and tweaks recreating all the old classic moves. But, that definitely paid off. The highlight of the evening is the Ed Sullivan Show section. I literally could not stop laughing as a barrage of sight gags filled my rods and cones with so many hilarious images, that I will be giggling for weeks. Sooooooooo funny. Another highlight is when the Plaids bring up and audience member to play “Heart and Soul.” Hilarious results.

There were some distractions with the production. One major one was most of the whispered dialogue is lost. I lost many of Thompson’s whispered lines, and when the group would whisper. Now, some of those whispers might not be needed to be heard by the audience, but it creates dead space, and there is a lot of that in the beginning.  There is also an issue with no front lighting on the faces, especially in some of the solo moments. Shadows on faces from being lit from above. That could be an intended look, but i found it distracting. My final critique is the band. Not their playing, that is terrific. But, aside from choreographed smiles to the audience from Bird, the band never smiles. I know the Plaids are dead, but if the Plaids can enjoy themselves, so can you. This is a party!

The bottom line is that the audience will eat this show alive, as they did by giving a Standing O to the hardworking cast. One of the greatest things about this show, is that each performer is a talented class act and a great ambassador for the arts. You will leave this show in a better place after having enjoyed the work of some of the area’s most talented performers. Great job casting Mr. Cespedes.

Production Team:

Director and Choreographer Martin Cespedes, Musical Director Bryan Bird, Stage Manager Diana D’Alessandro, Scenic Designer Aaron Benson (love the Mike Douglas set), Technical Director/Lighting Designer, Sound Designer Carlton Guc (excellent blend), Costume Designer Aimee Kluiber (Great looks), Assistant to the Choreographer Holly Kay Harris.

September 12 – October 12
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays

3pm Sundays

$10-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

Order Tickets Online
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107