“Forever Plaid” wraps up the summer season at Wagon Wheel Theatre as a superb musical explosion of fun, crowd interaction and amazing vocal talents by a foursome of young men seemingly born to perform – and loving every minute of it.
From the minute Frankie (Matt Hill), Smudge (Kyle Timson), Sparky (Matthew Janisse) and Jinx (Kevin Clay) take the stage in their snow white “dinner jackets,” black tuxedo pants and shiny black shoes, the audience cannot help but be sucked into the show by each of the characters diverse personalities, perfect pitch and comedic form.
As the audience learns prior to the on-stage arrival of the musical squad known as “Forever Plaid,” the year was 1964 and the four young men, on their way to pick up their plaid jackets, were tragically killed by a bus of Catholic teenagers. The boys were given one chance to return to life to perform and record the album they dreamed of making.
Twenty songs are featured in this heart-warming musical revue of the 1950s era in which each of the four stars of the stage are equally captivating. Jinx, the shy, soft-spoken one of the bunch who suffers from nose bleeds, not only overcomes his nasal issues to delight in his solo of “Cry,” he simply astounds the audience.
Sparky is, as his character suggests, a spark of energy on stage. Janisse is a treat to watch as he fills the role with a happy-go-lucky demeanor and child-like excitement over the music the group makes together.
Smudge is forever the directionally challenged one, struggling to sway in the right direction as his friends and learn his left from his right. He steps up to the plate in a big way, though, during his mostly solo rendition of “Sixteen Tons/Chain Gang” that moves in all the directions.
Frankie, the asthmatic, is the leader of the group and takes charge just before the final song of the show when his band-mates’ enthusiasm suddenly diminishes. The young men find themselves saddened and not wanting to perform the last song because it means they will have to return to heaven and leave the stage behind. Frankie’s inspirational pep-talk is just the key they need to rev back up and close the show with “Love is a Many Splendor Thing.”
Among the most crowd-pleasing performances of the evening lies in the “Lady of Spain,” performed as the entire Ed Sullivan Show in 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and with “Caribbean Plaid.” Both songs are filled with much visual comedy expertly accompanying the vocals. The audience never stopped laughing.
This family friendly and truly delightful production of “Forever Plaid” is on the Wagon Wheel Theatre stage through Aug. 24.