White and Nerdy

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.”


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