Saturday, May 10, 2014

Forever Plaid

Playwright: Stuart Ross

Company:  Fine Arts Center Theatre Company
Venue: SaGaJi Theatre, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, Colorado Springs CO 80903.
Running Time:  1 hours, 55 minutes (includes 20 minute intermission)
Date of Performance:  Friday, May 9, 2014 

I don't normally do spoilers, but in Forever Plaid, the contrived story line is only a vehicle for the music.  Forever Plaid is about the music, not the story.  So, for the handful of folks who are still unfamiliar with the fictional Plaids, here's the "plot."
The Plaids were four high school guys in a harmony group in the early 1960s.  They were on the cusp of making the big time when their Mercury Monterrey was hit by a busload of Catholic school girls going to a Beatles concert.  The Plaids were killed instantly.  Through some hocus pocus stuff, they are given one chance to do a final concert.  And that, folks, pretty much sums up the story.
Even though the story is thin, the music is wonderful.  The set list includes Rags to Riches, Three Coins in a Fountain, Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, and a boatload of other marvelous songs done in exquisite four part harmony.  
Forever Plaid is a musical, and it depends heavily on talented actors with strong singing skills.  In that respect, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (CSFAC) has hit the musical jackpot with its cast (Thadd Kreuger, Jesse Havea, Jason Lythgoe, and Kevin Pierce).  Each brings his part to the harmony, and the result is a wonderful blend of music and talent.  Given that many successful artists today perform with auto-tune software, it is a distinct pleasure to hear the Plaids' natural harmonies without any need whatsoever for electronic enhancement.

Not only are these guys masters of the four part harmony, they are great stand alone singers as well.  Kevin Pierce had to do the last verse of his solo Cry over thundering applause from the near capacity opening night crowd.  Not to be outdone, Jesse Havea followed Kreuger with Sixteen Tons, showcasing his honey dipped bass tones.
Erik K. Diaz' set design is spectacular; the art deco theme is a reminder of the Radio City Music Hall stage where the Plaids never got to play.  The set pieces double as light boxes, and lighting designer Jonathan Spencer has made full use of them.  He bathes the Plaids in a rainbow of colors.  The best lighting moment, though, happens the very end, as the Plaids leave the stage.  I've seen numerous productions of Forever Plaid, but that final moment has never been done better in my experience, and it's the dramatic lighting that makes the difference.
The CSFAC production is one of the best I've ever seen, and the opening night audience agreed.  The standing ovation started immediately, and continued through two curtain calls.  From start to finish, the set, the lights, the costumes, the harmonies, and the marvelous music, Forever Plaid is a total winner.  
As the Plaids sing in Moments to Remember, "January through December, We'll have Moments to Remember."  They give us a thousand moments to remember at the Fine Arts Center, and every one of those moments is a precious memory.
Four talented lads...crossing the musical road.

This show is suitable for all ages.
Free parking is available at the theater, across from the front entrance on Dale Street.
While the singing is best left to the Plaids (this is not a karaoke show), there is one audience sing along.  Here's your lines:  "Matilda, Matilda, Matilda...she take my money and run Venezuela."  Sing your heart out...this could be the most fun you've had in a long time.
This show closes on June 1, 2014. 

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Cafe 36, in the Fine Arts Center, provides a pre-show dinner ($39 per person).  The menu changes with the performance, you can find the Forever Plaid menu here.
If you're celebrating a special occasion, The Famous in downtown Colorado Springs (31 North Tejon) is close enough for a pre-show dinner.  It's expensive, but it may be the best steakhouse in El Paso County.  It got the CS Indy award for Best Restaurant for Carnivores, 2013.

Tickets HERE.
Photo Credits:  Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and Jeff Kearney.

Director/Choreographer: Nathan Halvorson
Musical Direction:  Jay Hahn
Scenic Design: Erik D. Diaz
Lighting Design:  Jonathan Spencer
Costume Design:  Janson Fangio

Francis:  Thadd Krueger
Smudge:  Jesse Havea
Sparky:  Jason Lythgoe
Jinx:  Kevin Pierce

Musical Director/Piano:  Jay Hahn
Percussion:  Richard Clark

Bass:  Jay McGuffin

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