Review by Peggy Miles
A blend of harmonies echo from the stage of the Harbourfront Theatre this summer.
The Summerside venue is developing a knack for staging pared down productions packed with high performance value. A handful of dynamic performers replace the need for a large acting troupe or elaborate set changes. The fact that Catherine O’Brien has come on as the theatre’s Artistic Director of Summer Programming for the second year in a row is no doubt a contributing factor to this season’s strong line-up.
Forever Plaid is a blast from start to finish. From touching moments to outright hilarity, there’s never a dull moment. The show ran at the Harbourfront in June and July, and tells the story of a squeaky clean singing quartet known as the Plaids, who are killed in a car accident in the 1950’s. They resurface on earth to give their fans one final performance.
The fixed set resembles a 1950’s lounge, with burgundy paint and mirrors on the walls. A grand piano sits off to one side and four microphone stands appear in the middle of the stage.
The Plaids burst into the limelight in white dinner jackets, complete with plaid cummerbunds and boutonnières (they later change into full-on plaid coats). The choreography is reminiscent of the era, with an added level of intense enthusiasm and flair (think synchronized swimming for the stage). The quartet’s high energy dance moves are as enjoyable as the songs they sing. You can tell the Plaids are working up a sweat as exhibited by the occasional wipe of the brow with their handkerchiefs.
Mark Allan plays the character of Frankie, the group’s leader who coaxes everyone with their cues, and retains the group’s morale. Allan is an old hand at the show, performing in over seven productions of Forever Plaid throughout Ontario.
Nathan Carroll plays Sparky, who’s always up for a laugh. His retainer gives him a slight speech impediment, adding to the comic relief.
The character Smudge is played by Sam Plett, the group’s worry wart, whose dance moves are always a little bit out of sync with the others.
Islander Ian Cheverie plays wide eyed Jinx, who is fearful of, well, life in general. Jinx occasionally gets a nose bleed on the high notes, but is able to pull through when it really counts.
The harmonies are impeccable. Each actor skilfully performs his respective role, while complimenting the other characters. The group is accompanied onstage by their piano player Patrick Burwell, who is also the show’s Musical Director.
The show flows nicely and the performers are fun to watch. And just to keep things lively, every now and then the group heads out into the crowd to interact with the audience. If you appreciate fun pop tunes from the 1950s, you’d be pleased with this show. While the Harbourfront’s run of Forever Plaid is over for the summer, you can find a similar brand of comedic relief in August with Nunsense.