OGDEN — Forever Plaid is the jukebox review musical with a book by Stuart Ross that has been around since 1989, delighting audiences that love good 4-part harmony and corny jokes. Directed at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Ogden by Morgan Parry, the show follows four singers who want to continue their concert singing after their concert days are cut short after an earthly accident. What follows is, pardon the pun, heavenly popular music of the 1950s set in a barbershop style.
With the talents of Avery Sims as Francis, Quinn Kapentov as Jinx, Angel Martinez as Sparky, and Caleb Parry as Smudge, I settled into my seat with high hopes for this evening’s performance. While Forever Plaid is never going to be on a list of my favorite shows, I knew that these four actors could bring together nice harmonies to soothe my soul on a cold night in the dark winter. Having now seen the full performance I can safely say that this was my favorite production of Forever Plaid that I have witnessed. There are a few specific elements that have brought this production to the forefront in a sea of countless other Forever Plaid’s over the years. The very first is the set design, which was not credited in the program. When producing a show like this, what can be done to spice up a show that only takes place in one location that happens to be a stage? Well, since a car plays a pivotal role in the plot, cars became a pivotal part of the set. This extended to the best entrance of the Plaids that could possibly happen.
The next standout is the music in this production. So many theatres in the area rely on performance tracks that when you walk into a production and see live musicians on the program, you know you are in for a real treat. Those who know Forever Plaid know that the pianist plays a pivotal role in the show. Zig’s production added a bassist to round out the musical sound. Sharon Datuin on the piano not only had an amazing skills set, she had a deadpan stage presence that added to the role and the show. Bassist Leo Hoggard rounded out the chords so well and brought the level of musicianship up more than expected. Music director Wendy Knowles truly understands the importance of all these things in order for the vocals to shine.
And oh boy, do those vocals shine. From Parry’s strong bass to Kapetanov’s angelic tenor, each chord hit with exactness. Additionally, specific choices made by director Parry improved the numbers more than I thought possible. The song “Perfidia” has an entire verse sung in Spanish, which over the years I’ve heard people stumble through. The casting of Martinez as Sparky, singing in his native language, speaks once again to the importance of appropriate representation, even in small ways in the theatre. Some of my personal favorite songs of the evening, such as “Sixteen Tons/Chain Gang “and “Scotland the Brave” have always been so because of the harmonies. What this cast has done to raise the quality of the show was to improve upon the written humor in such a way that none of the jokes feel tired. Each of the players have a great command of their facial expressions and how to play the audience for comedic moments. All of this combined for a truly enjoyable evening of entertainment.
As the show ended and the curtain call completed, Sims invited his girlfriend up and asked everyone to help celebrate her birthday. What seemed to start as a simple song turned into a proposal, and after she happily said yes, the curtain fell and became apparent that much of the audience were friends and family of the happy couple. Just another testament to the importance of theatre as community and why productions like this can have more value for dollar than big flashy tours or shows in the big city.