Friday, August 28, 2009

Get nostalgic with 'Forever Plaid'

As Labor Day weekend approaches The Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company has one final show, “Forever Plaid,” which has been playing on Mondays throughout their season, but is getting a proper run Sept. 3 to Sept. 6 at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse in North Conway, N.H.

After a season of big productions, this is a stripped-down, intimate four-piece production that is more of a concert than a musical. This is a quickie: just an hour and 20 minutes of musical nostalgia.

The premise of this off-Broadway show written by Stuart Ross is that the spirits of a harmony guy group tragically killed in 1964 have returned 45 years later to perform the one big show they never got to play.

This is all explained by Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company board of director member Rich Gray, who delivers the Rod Sterling-esque opening voice over. But this isn’t a trip into “The Twilight Zone.” It is a walk down memory lane.

The back from the afterlife set up allows for some cute between-song banter between the four leads, but it is really just an excuse to present a collection of songs from the 1950s and 1960s.

The fictional group of the title is tailored after such groups as The Four Aces and
The Four Freshman. Singing in a harmony group is not an easy feat, but the production’s four leads, James Erickson, Steve Codling, Paul Lange and Evan Smith, more than pull it off. They perform well and believably as a group. Although all their between-song conversation is scripted, they present it in a way that feels natural and spontaneous.

The intimate nature of the production makes this a good show to get tickets in the first few rows. There is audience participation in the form of a sing-a-long during the lively medley “Caribbean Plaid,” led by Smith’s Jinx.

Other highlights include “Crazy ‘Bout Ya Baby,” which features some amusing choreography involving plungers. On “Heart and Soul,” an audience member is pulled on stage to play keyboard and do some dancing.

Each performer gets at least one song to take lead, but as is the nature of a harmony group the work is evenly distributed and the ensemble works as a whole with no one trying to steal the spotlight.

The premise is never allowed to get too heavy and is mostly played for laughs. In one of the more serious moments, Erickson delivers a great monologue about the power of being in the moment as a group and feeding off one another until greatness is captured, if only briefly.

Although younger generations may not be familiar with such songs as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” and “Shangri-La,” they are performed so well and with such energy that this production should have broad appeal to all age groups.

For more information and tickets, call the box office at 356-5776 or visit

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