Forever Plaid

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If you love the old male harmony groups that crooned on the radio in the late ’50s and early ’60s, “Forever Plaid” is a show that will surely bring a smile to your face and tap to your toes.

Produced by Payson Community Theater and being performed at Payson High School this weekend, “Forever Plaid” is the story of a fictitious four-man singing group that was tragically killed in 1964 when their car collided with a bus full of Catholic school girls. The Plaids never got to perform their “big show” in life, and so now, 34 years later, they are given one chance to do it.

“Forever Plaid” is that show: There’s not a plot, there’s not a story, there’s not even an intermission. There’s just the Plaids, onstage singing like they never have before and trying to remember the choreography that has lain dormant in their memories for 34 years.

The show is more nostalgic than funny. The songs, like “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” and “Heart and Soul,” are pleasant, enjoyable tunes that will surely bring back memories among the over-45 set — though young people should be able to appreciate the songs, too, for their upbeat melodies, and the Plaids themselves for their excellent vocals.

The Plaids, played by Nathan Dunford, Scott Wilson, Blake Draper and Stan Peck, sound great when they’re singing, and Wilson, in particular, is a good actor, though they are all serviceable when doing the between-songs patter with the audience. The show starts out a bit low on the energy, though, which could be easily improved with a little more enthusiasm.

There’s some good humor in this show, too. The Plaids never got a chance to sing “Crazy ’bout Ya, Baby” with real microphones, so they perform it the way they always practiced it: with tall plungers they borrowed from someone’s hardware store. The jokes inherent in plopping plungers up on and down on the stage are funny, and you get a sense of the dopey, good-natured fun the four actors are having.

Later, they bring an audience member onstage to help play “Heart and Soul,” and there’s audience participation in “Matilda” as well. One of the highlights is when they do a 3-minute, 11-second version of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” full of jokes that will be most appreciated by those who still remember that show.

There are also plenty of laughs in the group’s frequent inability to come in on the right note, or to perform exactly the right dance step — it’s been over three decades since they performed, after all.

“Forever Plaid” is often done as a parody of the guy groups of the late ’50s, but David C. Dahlquist’s direction here is more a celebration of it, which is fine. Dahlquist and Bill Lowe play piano and upright bass, respectively, and they do a bang-up job of it, livening up the show considerably.

For an evening of old-time music and some simple, cheerful fun, “Forever Plaid” is a good bet.

This was the second time I had seen "Forever Plaid"; the first was at Provo Theatre Company, and while their version was much more polished (and funny), Payson's had a certain charm to it that was undeniable. I heard an older man say, as he was walking out of the theater, "I was humming along with most of the songs." The show had clearly been an evening of fun nostalgia for him, and to that end, it was a success.

This was my 50th theater review for the Daily Herald (it's numbered as #51 on this Web site because #14, "Trail of Dreams," was a review for The Daily Universe, thus throwing the whole count off). In honor of that milestone, plus the fact that it had been one year since I officially began doing theater reviews (my very first one, of "A Place in the Sun," was when I was still technically just a music critic), prompted me to write a column about reviewing in Utah County. That column contained many of the same ideas I've expressed in the "COMMENTS & REACTION" section of some of these reviews.

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