While there are many dark theaters on the Las Vegas strip, and just the word theater has a certain stigma around town, there is one musical comedy which has been pleasing crowds for almost five years now. Voted "Best Revue of the Year" twice, Forever Plaid has been SRO since its opening at the Flamingo Hilton, so we thought we'd pay another visit to see how the show is holding up.
The basic premise of the show centers around a paper-thin book, but a gem of a book it is. The Plaids are a four-part harmony singing quartet who meet disaster in 1964. On their way to a singing gig at an airport lounge they are rammed by a schoolbus filled with Catholic teens on their way to a Beatles concert. The girls survive but the Plaids are killed instantly. But, what if they are trapped in the cosmos and come back to do that concert they had planned for the airport lounge? The stage is set, and we, the audience get to see and hear that concert.
Four-part harmony groups were very popular in the 1950's and '60's with such groups like The Lettermen, The Four Aces, and others churning out hits like "Moments to Remember," "No, Not Much," "Catch A Falling Star" and many others. Rock 'n Roll pretty much killed the genre, but even today, The Letterman are still touring. Why? Well, it's good music which requires good singers and the Forever Plaid cast consists of four exceptionally talented guys and 2 very good musicians. (David Kancsar, piano, and Ken Seiffert, bass).
Not only can these guys sing, but they're comic clowns as well. While they're staging and site gags are always off the mark by a beat, coming off as amateur wannabees, make no mistake about their singing, which is right on the mark and very professional. It all makes for a delightful evening in the theatre. So delightful, in fact, the couple sitting behind me were paying their 5th visit to the show.
Douglas Frank, Frankie is right on the money singing "Chain Gang" and "Heart and Soul." Jeff Church, Smudge, does an excellent version, ala Tennessee Ernie Ford, of "Sixteen Tons" and then belts away in "Rags to Riches." Matt Kubicek, Jinx, gets to strut his stuff in his powerful version of Johnny Ray's classic, "Cry." Rounding out the cast is Randy Rineck, Sparky, who makes the singing look effortless. His "Catch A Falling Star" was a real crowd pleaser. Of course, it's when the four sing together that we are really transported back to that time of harmony and good singing.
Forever Plaid is not a lounge show, but a genuine musical comedy. And there is plenty of comedy here from a riotous number with plungers to their "Lady of Spain" mini Ed Sullivan show.
Douglas Frank has been with the show for 4 1/2 years. Asked how he keeps it fresh and is it as much fun to do as it appears, he states, "one of the things that keeps it fresh, for me, is that I alternate between different roles (Frankie, Smudge) in the show, and other Plaids come and go and that creates a different dynamic and a different combination of personalities all the time." Is it fun to do? "It is fun to do. It's just such a well constructed show, and it gives people such joy. It's really a pleasure to be a part of it. It's a gift to be able to do a show like this." And Doug is right. He and the cast of Forever Plaid deliver this little gift of a show 6 nights a week.
With ticket prices going through the roof in Las Vegas, many people are looking for shows in a more affordable range. It's one of the reasons Forever Plaid is sold out on a regular basis. If you're heading to Las Vegas, make your reservation, head on over to the theatre early, relax, have a drink, and then prepare yourself for this first-rate production.
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