Forever Plaid, presented by Santa Barbara Theatre. At the Lobero Theatre, Thursday, October 26.
Reviewed by Charles Donelan
For those who have never been to planet Plaid, a short tutorial is in order. The four singers who make up the cast of Forever Plaid were killed in a traffic accident on the way to the first American Beatles concert in 1964. The show is their magical return to the land of the living, and though they are rattled by death and rusty on some of their choreography, the boys sound great — better than ever in fact. They sing numbers from the songbook of pre-rock ’n’ roll 1950s pop radio, and they dance, joke, and act like just the kind of nerds that might have populated the high school glee club, circa 1960. Frankie (Drew Geraci) is the asthmatic leader, Jinx (Brian Golub) is the nervous one, Sparky (Morgan Sills) is the sweet-voiced and swishy one (he works part-time in ladies’ better dresses), and Smudge (George Miserlis) is the dark-haired hunk.
What happens when they hit the stage for their once-in-an-afterlifetime opportunity is a wry mix of slapstick, doo-wop harmonies, and great, enthusiastic torch singing. The arrangements are designed for maximum fun, and any fan of Broadway musicals will enjoy the continually inventive riffs they run on the conventions of stage behavior. There’s a routine involving oversized plungers treated as microphone stands early on — to the tune of “Crazy ’Bout Ya Baby” — that both dazzles and sets the stage for an incredible tour de force of physical comedy later on. The mood spins between scenery-chewing Merman-esque vocal gymnastics and goofy, shoe-gazing self-deprecation. Each Plaid gets a couple of spotlight numbers. Check out Jinx on “Cry” — it will knock you out. And Sparky carries off a remarkable ode to Perry Como’s “Golden Cardigan.”
For sheer splendid lunacy, nothing can top “Lady of Spain,” which becomes the vehicle for a three-and-a-half-minute condensation of every Ed Sullivan Show regular act ever. This is much harder and more ambitious even than it sounds, and each guy is operating at his absolute peak of energy the entire time. Congratulations to director (and Frankie) Drew Geraci, the entire cast, musical director Andrew Chukerman, and our own James Connolly (on acoustic bass) for bringing a little bit of harmony heaven to town. As Frankie says in his finale pep-speech, “there’s no feeling quite like being locked into a tight chord.”