Forever Plaid has been a popular musical revue since the late 1980s. It’s a breezy, fluffy kind of show, and its quality can vary greatly. In the case of Theatre Raleigh’s production, however, it’s a total blast. Directed by Stephanie Pope Lofgren and taking place on a sleek, stylish new stage in Theatre Raleigh’s Arts Center, it’s fun from beginning to end. A huge part of the credit, of course, goes to the uber-talented cast and crew. But, Theatre Raleigh’s expanding venue and vibe also play a role in casting Forever Plaid in a whole new light.
Viewers are treated to a casual cabaret feel, and not the manufactured kind you find at many venues. There are drinks, popcorn, comfy seats, and low lighting, all of which combine to create a relaxed atmosphere─the kind of atmosphere that’s just right for enjoying a show like this one.
Forever Plaid has always been a little on the silly side, and it gets sillier and sillier as its 90 minutes draw to a close. Put it on in a stuffy environment, and it often falls flat. Put it on in the warm, welcoming walls of Theatre Raleigh's Arts Center, however, and it feels like a good time with friends.
The loose script centers around the Plaids, a band that met its unfortunate demise in 1964 and is back to perform one last concert. In this production, the four Plaids come out carrying candles while a background of cool video effects sets the scene. They take their places at the mics, tell their stories, and sing their songs. But, the unique combination of environment and energy makes their performance wonderfully enthralling. In fact, the strange story even becomes oddly believable. Viewers feel like they’re really witnessing a final, desperate concert, and they fall in love with each band member along the way.
Of course, that’s pretty easy to do since there couldn’t be a more loveable cast. Four diverse actors (and two talented musicians) use their stage time as a lesson in charm. Andrew Wade’s “Sparky” has a literal sparkle in his eye the whole time, while Tedd Szeto’s “Smudge” comes across as sweetly nerdy and incredibly endearing. David Robbins lends his big smile and brawny build to create a huggable “Francis,” and Matthew Fairlee emits surprising vulnerability in his role as “Jinx.” Each actor has the pipes necessary for the role, as well as the most important element: a whole lot of joy. The joy is there when they deliver Parker Esse’s purposefully cheesy choreography with total commitment. It’s there when they sing into plungers, spin plates, and limbo across the stage. It infuses every second, and it’s so infectious that viewers are sad when it’s over.
After two plus years of COVID, this production feels like much-needed medicine. There wasn’t anyone sans a smile at the opening night performance. If you want to pass around the “Book of Life,” laugh a lot, and see a script elevated from mundane to marvelous, don’t miss this one. Tickets can be purchased here.
We love the arts. We write about them. Founded 2018.