Saturday, 16 April 2016

Forever Plaid - Review

St James Studio, London


Written by Stuart Ross
Directed by Grant Murphy

The Plaids

The gingham tablecloths set the tone for Forever Plaid, currently downstairs at St James' Studio. Look closely and the "menu cards" are actually the evening's set list. If it wasn't for the excellent performances on display, all that would be missing would be a juke-box to seal the illusion of 1960's Americana that Forever Plaid so carefully re-creates.

With a plotline as melodramatic as the era it tells of, we meet The Plaids, a fictitious covers band all killed in a road crash and whose spirits are returned to Earth to perform a gig. It's a ridiculous conceit and one that can only work at all if the show's actors are at the top of their game. Fortunately, they are.

The quartet's harmonies are simply the closest possible. The show opens with Three Coins In The Fountain, a rat pack classic that so defines the period, before bespectacled bass man (and bass player) Matthew Quinn makes a perfectly weighted contribution to Gotta Be This Or That. Luke Striffler's Frankie is handed most of the evening's (occasionally too cheesy) narrative, however with a perfect vocal contribution, his singing delights throughout. 

Keith Jack (of BBC's Any Dream Will Do fame) delights as the geeky Sparky, though it is Jon Lee, with a track record that includes both S Club 7 and having played Franke Valli in Jersey Boys, whose voice (especially in Cry) provides the cherry on the top of this malted milk shake of a show.

It's not just the voices that shine. Accompanying throughout on piano (and occasionally on the far too rarely heard melodica) Anthony Gabriele delivers his usual musical perfection. Grant Murphy (assisted here by Katie Bradley) choreographs the four in routines that are as slick as they are witty. Ben Rogers' lighting design works a treat, (I LOVED the location-specific pantograph flood light as a finale touch), whilst Nik Corrall offers an ingenious design of stage and costume, with vinyl and chrome microphone stands everywhere 

More than just a selection of perfectly performed classics, Forever Plaid offers a step back in time. It may be corny, but it’s classy.

Runs until 24th April
Then touring to the Radlett Centre and Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

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