You may have been born long after the 50s when pompadours and poodle skirts and sock hops and saddle shoes ruled, but that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the four-part harmony of the popular guy groups of those years. Torontonicity was invited to attend the opening of Forever Plaid at the Panasonic Theatre on May 26, 2016. The premise of Forever Plaid is this: A 1950s high school singing group, Forever Plaid, is on the way to see The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show when their car collides with a bus. All members of the group don’t survive; however, they are returned from the afterlife for one last performance.
Directed and choreographed by Dayna Tekatch, Forever Plaid will take you back to the time when four-part guy quartets such as The Four Aces and The Four Lads, appealed to a clean-cut audience, just as rock’n’roll was overtaking the softer music in popularity.
The set list in Forever Plaid includes many genres such as pop, soul and calypso and even a nod to The Beatles (“She Loves You”), albeit a more reserved version.
Jeff Madden as Jinx steps out to showcase his outstanding vocal range on the Johnnie Ray and The Four Lads’ hit, “Cry”. Madden ‘s singing in the upper octaves is pure perfection and heart-wrenching. (You may remember Madden as Frankie Valli in Toronto’s production of Jersey Boys.)
Johnathan Cullen as Frankie displayed a soulful voice when he took the lead on Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”. Matt Cassidy (Smudge) showcased his impressive baritone chops on “Shangri-La” while Scott Beaudin (Sparky) used his voice to highlight the sweet melody of Perry Como’s Hit, “Catch A Falling Star”. All four leads have oodles of charm.
When these four sing together, their harmonies are lush, sweet, seamless and in sync, particularly evident on one of the group’s outstanding ballads, “No, Not Much”.
Dayna Tekatch’s sharp choreography captures the tightly coordinated moves of the Fifties’ boy groups. Beth Kates’s dynamic lighting included marquee-style lights bordering the stage.
The foursome’s exuberant performance of “Matilda”, the Harry Belafonte calypso classic, involved audience interaction with multi-coloured patio lights being strung up along the front orchestra seating section and pineapple-topped hats donned by the group, back-up band and audience members sitting on stage left and right. The number was loads of fun!
The singing group is backed up by a stellar ensemble led by Music Director/Pianist Mark Camilleri, who displayed a wonderful touch on the keys, particularly on the jazz-infused arrangement of “Catch A Falling Star”.
Opening night gremlins resulted in a slight mishap involving a shattered glass, but the actors were so smooth and comical about blending this into the show, that it didn’t disrupt the flow at all.
Forever Plaid at the Panasonic Theatre is a feel-good romp through the pop hits of the 50s. I didn’t want it to end.
Forever Plaid is at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, 416-872-1212 from May 17, 2016 to June 12, 2016. Tickets are $99.95, $79.95 and $39.95 and can be purchased at the box office or online at Mirvish.